On 9th April, a Soyuz spacecraft carries two Russian astronauts and one American cosmonaut who arrive at the International Space Station (ISS) post its launch from Kazakhstan.
Specifications of the launch are mentioned below:
- Name of the spacecraft – Soyuz-2.1a
- The rocket took off from Baikonur Cosmodrome
- Time of take-off – 3:42 a.m. Eastern time
- It places the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft into orbit
- The spacecraft docks up at the station’s Rassvet module at 7:05 a.m. Eastern time
- There is a two-orbit approach to the station
The Soyuz brings Mark Vande Hei (NASA astronaut) and Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov (Roscosmos cosmonauts) to the station. As a part of the Expedition 65 crew, they will stay on the station till October at least.
Novitsky – commander of the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft, is to return to the Earth in October on the same spacecraft. However, Dubrov and Vande Hei are to stay on the station for about a year in case Roscosmos decides to fly spaceflight participants on the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft then. The spaceflight participants include a director and an actress for a movie about the launch on Soyuz MS-19.
Vande Hei acknowledges the uncertainty of how long his stay is at the station. He said in reference to his 6 months stay in 2017–2018, “For me, it is a new life experience, honestly. My longest stay in the space is half a year. I am very excited about this.” Only 18 months before the launch, Vande Hei joins the crew. Recruitment takes place after the agency finalizes an agreement involving Roscosmos and Axiom Space to acquire the seat. Roscosmos sells a seat to Axiom (commercial spaceflight company) which then transfers it to NASA in barter for a seat on a future commercial crew mission in 2023.
NASA is a past purchaser from Roscosmos who takes an unusual approach as a stopgap since it works on an agreement with Roscosmos in exchange for seats directly between the two agencies. Under the previous plan, NASA astronauts continue to fly on Soyuz spacecraft whereas Russian cosmonauts fly commercial crew vehicles with no exchange of funds between them. With the help of such “mixed crews,” it facilitates that there will always be both NASA and Roscosmos workers on the station.
The agreement is not complete yet. However, NASA is yet to fill the fourth seat on the Crew-3 commercial crew mission. It is a Crew Dragon spacecraft that schedules to launch no earlier than Oct. 23. Raja Chari and Tom Marshburn (NASA astronauts) and Matthias Maurer (European Space Agency astronaut) are the crew for that flight.
As Soyuz MS-18 arrives, the station’s crew size increases to 10 people which is on a temporary basis. Kate Rubins (NASA astronaut) and Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov (Roscosmos cosmonauts) have a schedule so that they can return to Earth on 17th April on the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft.