April 8 (UPI) – NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy is scheduled to fly to the International Space Station from Kazakhstan on Thursday with two Russian cosmonauts.
The Soyuz rocket takes off at 4:05 a.m. EDT from the Russian Baikonur Cosmodrome. It will begin a six-hour journey, orbiting Earth four times before catching up with the space station.
The launch is scheduled for in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, with passengers having been isolated for two weeks before departure. They had very little human contact during this period, except for close monitoring of health conditions, according to NASA.
As with most Soyuz crew launches, very little additional equipment or science will be on board. A SpaceX cargo capsule delivered supplies to the space station on March 9.
Cassidy and the cosmonauts – Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner – are expected to be on board the space station next month for the scheduled arrival of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule.
It will be the first American spacecraft to transport astronauts to the space station since the end of the shuttle program in 2011.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are due to arrive at NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 flight test, which is currently scheduled to launch no earlier than mid-late to late May.
The crew will dock with the station’s Zvezda service module at 10:16 a.m. EDT on Thursday. About two hours after docking, hatches between the Soyuz and the station will open.
The new crew will join Roscosmos Expedition 62 Commander Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir, who will complete their station mission and return to Earth on April 17 on another Soyuz.
Cassidy is expected to become commander of Expedition 63 from Skripochka, Morgan and Meir. A change of command ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday.
Space flight will be the third for Cassidy and Ivanishin and the first for Vagner.