Russia’s new Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9:36 p.m. EDT Wednesday, carrying a crew of three astronauts — one each from Russia, America and Japan — to the International Space Station (ISS).
The new crew — Kate Rubins of NASA, Anatoly Ivanishin of Russian space agency Roscosmos and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency — will test modified systems for two days before docking to ISS at 12:12 a.m. EDT Saturday. The trio 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,” NASA said in a statement.
According to the federal space agency, the Expedition 48 crew members will receive and install the space station’s first international docking adapter, which will accommodate future arrivals of U.S. commercial crew spacecraft. The new docking port with built-in systems for automated docking will be delivered to the station on SpaceX’s ninth commercial resupply mission.
In addition, the crew members are scheduled to receive American aerospace manufacturer Orbital ATK’s sixth commercial resupply mission and two Russian Progress resupply flights that will deliver several tons of food, fuel, supplies and research.
The upgraded Soyuz spacecraft was developed by RSC Energia, a Russian manufacturer of spacecraft and space station components. Once attached to the ISS, Soyuz MS-01 will also serve as a crew rescue vehicle and will be kept permanently ready for emergency crew return to Earth.