A Russian cosmonaut and his NASA co-pilot, five months after riding out a dramatic launch abort last October, finally made it into orbit Thursday and, along with a NASA astronaut making her first flight, docked with the International Space Station six hours later to boost the lab’s crew back to six.
SpaceX is gearing up for the first commercial launch of its powerful Falcon Heavy rocket as soon as early April with a communications satellite for Arabsat, and the U.S. Air Force hopes the two side boosters from the Arabsat mission can be safely landed and reused for the military’s first Falcon Heavy mission this summer, an exercise officials said will help certify previously-flown hardware for future national security launches.
Russian commander Alexey Ovchinin, NASA co-pilot Nick Hague and astronaut Christina Koch lifted off aboard a Soyuz rocket Thursday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, heading for the International Space Station to raise the research outpost’s crew complement back to six. The Soyuz booster launched at 1914 GMT (3:14 p.m. EDT), and docking at the space station occurred at 0101 GMT (9:01 p.m. EDT).
In a major shift, NASA is considering using two commercial launchers to send an unpiloted Orion crew capsule and its European-built service module on a test flight around the moon next year, maintaining the lunar test flight’s schedule despite fresh delays in the development of the multibillion-dollar Space Launch System that jeopardize the heavy-lifter’s 2020 inaugural flight, the agency’s administrator said in a congressional hearing Wednesday.