A Russian Soyuz rocket with two Russians on board and an American is on its way to the International Space Station ISS. Kathleen Rubins, Sergei Rijikov and Sergey Kued-Sverchkov left from a launch base in Kazakhstan.
It‘ll take about three hours to get to the ISS. The rocket has been launched in a special way, so that the journey is now about twice as fast as before. Previously, a rocket had to orbit the Earth four times. Now you can do that in two times before the station is reached. This faster method has already been used on cargo flights. It’s the first time a manned flight has gone so fast.
Watch the launch in NASA‘s livestream here:
The trio joins NASA commander of the station, Chris Cassidy, and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of the Russian Roscosmos, who have been aboard the complex since April. They are expected to return to Earth next week.
At a press conference prior to launch, Rubins said that the crew had been in quarantine for weeks just outside Moscow and in Kazakhstan to “avoid any threat of the coronavirus”.
The Russians and Americans want to continue to work together to transport each other to the ISS. “We have a good cooperation,” Rubins said. “We have American astronauts train here and continue to train Russian cosmonauts at the Johnson Space Center (in the US).”
In 2011, the Space Shuttle program ended. As a result, American astronauts have been relying on Russian missiles to go to the ISS for ten years. In May, a commercial missile went to ISS for the first time: the Crew Dragon of Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. It was the first launch of American soil in ten years.
ISS rotates around the Earth at about 400 kilometers altitude. That takes the station over an hour and a half. Not only professional space travellers go to the station. Some 240 space tourists have already visited.
The space station has been moving around the Earth for 21 years as a kind of habitable satellite. Space research is being done in the station. Since the beginning of November 2000 it has been inhabited, always in different compositions. The main participants in the Space Research Centre are the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, the American NASA, the European ESA, the Japanese JAXA and the Canadian Agency CSA.