Three More Space Travelers Set to Go to ISS, Plus Two Uncrewed Launches Coming Soon

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Mar 18, 2016
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UPDATE, Mar. 19, 2016 at 17:00 UTC: The launch was a success! A few hours later, the Soyuz capsule docked with ISS and the new crew boarded the station.

A Soyuz rocket stands tall at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, ready to launch into space.

It’s scheduled to do so Friday at 21:26 UTC (5:26 p.m. Eastern U.S. time). On board are three men: American astronaut Jeff Williams, and Russian cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka (at some point, we need a more generic term for people who go to space that isn’t country-specific). They’ll join three people still onboard the International Space Station as part of Expedition 47.

As usual, you can watch the launch live on NASA TV, and NASA’s UStream (which I recommend; the connection is usually less laggy).

Next week, Orbital ATK is scheduled to launch a Cygnus spacecraft—the Rick Husband, named after one of the astronauts lost on Columbia in 2003—loaded with supplies on an Atlas V rocket to the ISS as well. That’s set for 03:05 UTC Tuesday night/Wednesday morning (11:05 p.m. Eastern) and will also be covered live at the links above. Most likely I’ll be live-tweeting the launches too, giving you info and updates as I get them.

This will mark the fifth resupply mission by Orbital ATK, as part of their Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA. The fourth launch was in December and was also on an Atlas V. Orbital ATK has their own rocket, called Antares, but after an explosion right after launch in 2014, they’ve been flying on an Atlas. The company hopes to launch the sixth Cygnus resupply mission on an upgraded Antares in May.

SpaceX will also be launching a resupply mission to ISS, CRS-8, scheduled for 20:43 UTC April 8.* This will be their first mission to ISS after they too lost a rocket shortly after launch last June.

Busy busy busy. I like to see it this way! As it happens NASA’s budget for FY2017 is being discussed in the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, with the usual things being said (Lamar Smith wants less money for climate and more for the Space Launch System, sigh). I hope they fund more commercial space, more planetary exploration, and we see the NASA I’ve always dreamed of: One with a bigger budget, a clearer vision, and a future putting more people and robots into space.

*Update, March 18, 2016: I originally wrote the launch was set for April 4 (which I found online on wikipedia). Right after I posted this NASA issued a release saying the launch date is April 8.