This afternoon, a new crew of three astronauts will embark on a flight to the International Space Station, bringing the total number of crew on the orbiting lab to its standard size of six. Two US astronauts, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev will be making the voyage, taking off in a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan in the first crewed flight of 2018. All three are spaceflight veterans and will be staying on board the ISS for about five months.
The trio is scheduled to take off today at 1:44PM ET. Once in space, they’ll spend about two days in orbit, slowly approaching the space station and then docking at around 3:41PM ET on Friday. There, they’ll be greeted by the three crew members already on board the ISS: NASA’s Scott Tingle, Norishige Kanai from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, who is the current station commander.
That means the US will continue to have four crew members on board (Kanai is one of NASA’s international partner astronauts), up from the typical three. NASA has been maintaining a larger crew than usual since Russia has recently reduced the number of cosmonauts it sends to the ISS to two.
NASA’s coverage of the launch is set to begin at 12:45PM ET. Check back then to watch liftoff live.