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The Soyuz-2.1a rocket came out of its assembly building at sunrise on Sunday for the railway transition to substrate 31 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. After the Soyuz reached the pad, the hydraulic cylinders lifted the three-stage vertical rocket and the portal arms folded in place around the launch vehicle.
Ground crews began a series of final inspections, engine preparation and closures before the Soyuz rocket filled with kerosene and liquid oxygen in the final hours before launch. Liftoff is scheduled for 1:45 p.m. EDT (0545 GMT; 10:45 a.m. Baikonur) Wednesday.
Two Russian astronauts and an American astronaut will launch the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft into orbit, launching a fast two-stage rendezvous with the space station. Assuming a timely launch, the crew capsule is scheduled to connect to the Rassvet module on the space station at 4:52 p.m. EDT (0852 GMT).
The launch from Baikonur is estimated at about the time the space station flies directly over the spaceport in Central Asia.
Commander Sergei Ryzhikov will ride in the central seat during the three-hour chase of the Soyuz MS-17 space station. The 46-year-old Rizhikov is a former MiG-29 fighter pilot in the Russian Air Force and a veteran of a previous flight to the space station in 2016 and 2017, when he entered orbit for 173 days.
Russian cosmonaut Sergei Kud-Sverchkov will ride in the left Soyuz seat and serve as a chief flight engineer. Kud-Sverchkov is a 37-year-old spaceman who first joined the Russian cosmonaut corps in 2010 after working as a rocket engineer at Energia, the main executor of Russia’s space flight program.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will take her right seat in the capsule of the Union crew. The Connecticut-born Rubins, who grew up in California, will launch on her 42nd birthday to begin her second space station expedition after a 115-day mission in 2016. She earned a doctorate in cancer biology, working in public health and studied infectious diseases before her election as a NASA astronaut candidate in 2009.
The three-member crew will join space station commander Chris Cassidy and his Russian crew members Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Wagner for a week-long hanger. Cassidy, Ivanishin and Wagner are due to return by parachute to Kazakhstan on October 21 aboard their Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft, wrapping themselves in orbit for more than six months.
Rizhikov, Kud-Sverchkov and Rubins are expected to spend six months living and working on the space station. Their return to Earth is scheduled for April 17.
Four more astronauts are scheduled to launch in early mid-November from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. This will increase the size of the space station’s crew to seven.
More photos of the launch of the Soyuz rocket to the launch site are published below.
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