A Soyuz rocket arrived at a historic launch pad in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, where ground crews lifted the booster vertical to begin final preparations for liftoff Thursday with two Americans and one Russian heading for the International Space Station.
The Soyuz-FG rocket emerged from its hangar at the Baikonur Cosmodrome around sunrise Tuesday, traveling by rail to Launch Pad No. 1 at the Russian-operated spaceport, the same site where Yuri Gagarin departed on the first human spaceflight April 12, 1961.
Liftoff of the Soyuz rocket and its Soyuz MS-12 spaceship is scheduled for 1914 GMT (3:14 p.m. EDT) Thursday, beginning a six-hour trek to the space station set to culminate in a radar-guided automated docking at 0107 GMT (9:07 p.m. EDT).
Two of the three crew members aboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft are set for their second Soyuz launch in less than six months, following a dramatic in-flight abort Oct. 11 that cut short their trip to the station, resulting in an emergency landing a few hundred miles downrange from Baikonur.
Russian commander Alexey Ovchinin and NASA flight engineer Nick Hague were reassigned to the Soyuz MS-12 launch after last year’s abort aboard the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft. Ovchinin will occupy the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft’s center seat, with Hague on his left acting as co-pilot.
NASA astronaut Christina Koch will join Ovchinin and Hague on Thursday’s launch.
The mission will mark Ovchinin’s third Soyuz launch and Hague’s second, counting the Oct. 11 accident. Assuming a smooth launch and rendezvous, it will be Ovchinin’s second expedition on the space station, and Hague’s first.
Ovchinin, 47, is a former Russian Air Force pilot with 172 days of spaceflight experience on a 2016 mission aboard the space station. Hague is a 43-year-old colonel in the U.S. Air Force and a native of Kansas, who has served as a spacecraft engineer, test pilot and an astronautics instructor.
Koch, 40, is a spaceflight rookie, set for her first trip into space after her selection as a NASA astronaut in 2013. She was born in Michigan and raised in North Carolina, and has experience as an engineer on several NASA robotic science missions, as a research scientist on multiple tours in Antarctica, and as a station chief for NOAA in American Samoa.
The Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft is scheduled to return to Earth in October.
The photos below show the Soyuz FG-rocket’s rollout Tuesday at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
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