Roscosmos scrubs Soyuz crew launch 20 seconds before liftoff

The Soyuz 2.1a rocket at the pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The mission scrubbed on Thursday, March 21, 20 seconds prior to liftoff. Image: Roscosmos via NASA

Update 8:21 a.m. ET: Roscosmos aborted the MS-25 launch attempt. A new launch date has not been set, but could be as soon as Saturday, March 23.

A Russian cosmonaut, an American astronaut and a Belarusian flight attendant turned spaceflight participant are preparing for a mission to the International Space Station. Their arrival at the orbiting outpost will mark the beginning of Expedition 71.

Liftoff onboard a Soyuz 2.1a rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome was set for 4:21 p.m. MSK (9:21 a.m. ET, 1321 UTC), however the launch scrubbed at T-20 seconds for a yet unknown reason. Oleg Novistky, Tracy Dyson and Marina Vasilevskaya make up the trio of the MS-25 mission.

If they are able to launch on Saturday, docking at the ISS will occur on Monday, March 25. This will be the fourth trip to the ISS for Novitsky, the third trip for Dyson and the first trip for Vasilevskaya.

Expedition 71 NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, and Belarus spaceflight participant Marina Vasilevskaya are seen in quarantine, behind glass, during a press conference, Wednesday, March 20, 2024 a the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Dyson, Novitskiy, and Belarus spaceflight participant Marina Vasilevskaya are scheduled to launch aboard their Soyuz MS-25 spacecraft on March 21. Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Novitsky, 52, served as the commander for his three previous flights and will hold the position again on this mission. He graduated from the Air Force Academy in Russia with a speciality in military unit management and formations in 2006 and went on to graduate from the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration in 2015. He amassed more than 700 hours of flight time in his career.

He began his cosmonaut training in February 2007 and was named a test cosmonaut in July 2009.

Dr. Dyson grew up in California where she would go on to acquire a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from California State University (CSU) Fullerton in 1993 before earning her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) in 1997. She was selected as an astronaut the following year, in 1998.

During a press conference leading up to the MS-25 mission, Dyson described her family’s reaction when she told them about her selection to the astronaut corps.

“My family was very excited that I applied, but we were all in shock that I was selected,” Dyson said.

In January, Dyson spoke with Spaceflight Now and in a joint interview about her last time on orbit, during which she kept a diary of her thoughts while on board station. She said one memory that stood out was her involvement in a trio of contingency spacewalks to remove and replace a pump module that failed.

“It came towards the end of my increment. And so, there was just a lot of reflection on how our crew really became cohesive during that period of time and my thoughts on that as well as how the whole team on the planet had to rally together,” Dyson said. “And that wasn’t just the team in the flight control room, or the systems engineers at Johnson Space Center, but everyone around the globe who was affected by the fact that we lost one of our two cooling pumps.”

In addition to that punctuation mark on her second trip to space, Dyson also holds the distinction of being the first astronaut to use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with the hard of hearing back on Earth. She said there aren’t plans for something similar to that this time around because she wanted to keep her schedule lighter.

“I really wanted to open myself up for whatever changes happen onboard because unexpected things happened before and so, I was careful not to sign myself up for too many things outside of what I know I would be doing on orbit,” Dyson said.

Dyson also had the distinction of helping develop the spacecraft communicator (CAPCOM) position for Boeing’s Starliner Mission Operations team. As luck would have it, she will be on orbit to receive the first crewed flight of Starliner, which is set to launch in early May.

“The two people who are in the capsule are longtime friends of mine. Suni (Williams) and I go way back to when we interviewed for the astronaut program and we became friends then all the way through being selected together,” Dyson said. “We have a lot of history, she and I, so I’m super excited that, at this point in our careers, we might actually get to be in space together! So, that’s kind of fun.”

Also looking forward to enjoying time on station is the third member of the MS-25 crew: Marina Vasilevskaya. She performed as a professional ballroom dancer for more than 15 years before pivoting careers and becoming a flight attendant.

According to Russian state media, TASS, Vasilevskaya was one of six finalists selected out of more than 3,000 applications submitted to Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus to be considered for spaceflight training.

She and Anastasia Lenkova received final approval in July 2023. Lenkonva was assigned to the backup crew for MS-25 along with Roscosmos cosmonaut Ivan Wagner and NASA astronaut Don Pettit.

Of the trio launching onboard the MS-25 mission, both Novitsky and Vasilevskaya will only spend about 12 days on board the ISS. They will return to Earth on the Soyuz MS-24 spacecraft alongside NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara.

Vasilevskaya will make history as the first Belarusian woman to fly to space.