New crew members from U.S., Russia, Japan launch to International Space Station

Three crew members representing the United States, Russia and Japan are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9:36 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 6 (7:36 a.m. Baikonur time, July 7).

According to NASA press release, Kate Rubins of NASA, Soyuz Commander Anatoly Ivanishin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are traveling in an upgraded Soyuz spacecraft, reports.

They’ll spend two days — and 34 Earth orbits – testing modified systems before docking to the space station’s Rassvet module at 12:12 a.m. EDT Saturday, July 9.

NASA TV coverage of docking will begin at 11:30 p.m. Friday, July 8. Hatches are scheduled to open about 2:50 a.m. Saturday, July 9, with NASA TV coverage starting at 2:30 a.m.

The arrival of Rubins, Ivanishin and Onishi returns the station’s crew complement to six. The three will join Expedition 48 Commander Jeff Williams of NASA and Flight Engineers Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos. The Expedition 48 crew members will spend four months conducting more than 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences, and technology development.

Rubins, who holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and a doctorate in cancer biology, Ivanishin and Onishi are scheduled to remain aboard the station until late October. Williams, Skripochka and Ovchinin will return to Earth in September.

Expedition 48 crew members are expected to receive and install the station’s first international docking adapter, which will accommodate future arrivals of U.S. commercial crew spacecraft. Scheduled for delivery on SpaceX’s ninth commercial resupply mission (CRS-9) to the station, the new docking port features built-in systems for automated docking and uniform measurements. That means any spacecraft may use the adapters in the future – from NASA’s new crewed and uncrewed spacecraft, developed in partnership with private industry, to international spacecraft yet to be designed. The work by private companies to take on low-Earth orbit missions is expected to free up NASA’s resources for future crewed missions into deep space, including the agency’s Journey to Mars, with the Orion crew capsule launching on the Space Launch System rocket.

It should be recalled that on July 4, NASA’s Juno spacecraft successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit. Over the next few months, Juno’s mission and science teams will perform final testing on the spacecraft’s subsystems, final calibration of science instruments and some science collection.

Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls

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