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.
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.
President Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget request includes $21.02 billion for NASA, funding the agency’s ongoing efforts to develop commercial spacecraft and infrastructure in low-Earth orbit and to press ahead with construction and launch of the world’s most powerful rocket and the Orion crew ships that will carry astronauts back to the moon.
Space station astronauts closed hatches to the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft Thursday, setting the stage for undocking early Friday and a fiery unpiloted plunge to splashdown off the coast of Florida. A successful return to Earth will help clear the way for launch of the first piloted test flight of the new ferry ship in the mid-summer timeframe.