Soyuz Rocket Launching New Crew to Space Station Rolls Out to Launch Pad

Expedition 68 Soyuz Rollout 21

The Soyuz rocket that will launch three new crew members to the space station stands at its Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Soyuz rocket that will launch the next crew to the International Space Station (ISS) has rolled out to its launch pad and is counting down to its liftoff on Wednesday. Meanwhile, aboard the ISS, the Expedition 67 crew studied telerobotics and fluid physics on Monday while preparing for the upcoming crew arrival and next week’s crew departure.

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio is preparing for his first spaceflight set to begin at 9:54 a.m. EDT (6:54 a.m. PDT) on Wednesday when he launches to the station aboard the Soyuz MS-22 crew ship. He will be riding along with Soyuz Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin, both cosmonauts from Roscosmos. The trio will dock to the Rassvet module less than three-and-a-half hours after blasting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan beginning a six-month space station research mission.

View photographs of the Soyuz rocket rolling out by train to the site 31 launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan:

Three cosmonauts who have been on the station since March 18 will return to Earth just over a week after the new crew’s arrival. Station Commander Oleg Artemyev will board the Soyuz MS-21 crew ship with Flight Engineers Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov, undock from the Prichal module, then reenter Earth’s atmosphere, and parachute to a landing in the steppe of Kazakhstan. On Monday, the threesome spent the day packing gear for loading into their Soyuz spaceship, readying their launch and entry suits for the ride home, and reviewing Soyuz undocking and descent procedures.

Before Artemyev departs, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will take over for him as station commander during the traditional Change of Command ceremony. The leadership change will be seen live on NASA TV, the agency’s app, and its website at 9:35 a.m. EDT (6:35 a.m. PDT) on September 28.

Expedition 68 Soyuz Rollout 14

The service structure is raised into position around the Soyuz rocket, Sunday, September 18, 2022, at site 31 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Expedition 68 astronaut Frank Rubio of NASA, and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin of Roscosmos are scheduled to launch aboard their Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft on September 21. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Back in space, astronaut Bob Hines, NASA Flight Engineer, spent his day peering at foam samples inside the KERMIT microscope to observe characteristics only possible in microgravity. The Foams and Emulsions investigation examines how weightlessness affects microstructures and the dispersion of bubbles in liquid with the possibility of expanding commercial opportunities both in space and on Earth.

Robotics activities are critical both inside and outside of the International Space Station. With NASA and its international partners planning human missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond, scientists are also exploring the ability to control ground-based robots, also known as telerobotics, from a spacecraft. Astronaut Jessica Watkins, NASA Flight Engineer, powered up the Surface Avatar laptop computer on Monday morning and studied a variety of methods, such as haptic controls, user interfaces, and virtual reality, to command robot vehicles from long distances. Watkins later participated in a cognition test that seeks to measure a crew member’s ability to perform robotic activities in microgravity conditions aboard the orbiting lab.

Astronaut Kjell Lindgren, NASA Flight Engineer, was next to participate in the robotics cognition study for the Behavioral Core Measures investigation that may inform future spacecraft and space habitat designs. Lindgren also spent the day on space station chores including servicing U.S. spacesuit parts and cleaning crew quarters. Cristoforetti focused on lab maintenance activities as well, inspecting biology research gear and replacing components on the Waste and Hygiene Compartment, also known as the station’s toilet.

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