Spaceflight Insider

Soyuz MS-18 reaches International Space Station after 2 orbits

Soyuz MS-18 launches from Kazakhstan on a two-orbit trek to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Soyuz MS-18 launches from Kazakhstan on a two-orbit trek to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut took the express lane to the International Space Station, reaching the outpost in their Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft less than four hours after launch.

Aboard were cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei. Liftoff atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan took place at 3:42 a.m. EDT (7:42 UTC) April 9, 2021. After just two orbits, or 3.5 hours, Soyuz MS-18 docked with the Rassvet module.

Docking officially took place at 7:05 a.m. EDT (11:05 UTC) with hatch opening taking place about two hours later at 9:20 a.m. EDT (13:20 UTC).

Upon entering the space station, the population temporarily increased to 10, the largest since the end of the space shuttle era in 2011. The other crew members include three from Soyuz MS-18 — Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and NASA’s Kate Rubins — and four from Crew-1 Dragon — NASA’s Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Soichi Noguchi.

After docking, the three new members joined with the seven already aboard the outpost in the Zvezda service module for a welcome ceremony. Credit: NASA

After docking, the three new members joined with the seven already aboard the outpost in the Zvezda service module for a welcome ceremony. Credit: NASA

The Soyuz MS-18 trio are replacing the Soyuz MS-17 crew, who have been aboard the ISS since Oct. 14, 2020, and are slated to return to Earth next Saturday, April 17.

Once Soyuz MS-17 departs the ISS, Expedition 65 will officially start with Walker being the commander until Crew-1 Dragon’s departure later in April.

According to NASA, the Expedition 65 crew is expected to “continue work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science aboard the International Space Station.”

This is the third spaceflight for 49-year-old Novitsky, who previously spent half a year aboard the ISS in 2010 and again in 2016-2017.

54-year-old Vande Hei is on his second spaceflight after spending a half-year aboard the space station between September 2017 and February 2018. During that time he performed four spacewalks totaling 20 hours, 45 minutes.

Dubrov, 43, is on his first spaceflight and together with Vande Hei could spend nearly a year aboard the ISS in order to trade seats with spaceflight participants when Soyuz MS-19 flies to the outpost in September.

As of right now, Soyuz MS-19 is slated to carry Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov as well as Russian film director Klim Shipenko and an unnamed Russian actress.

Shipenko and the actress will return to Earth in Soyuz MS-18 in mid-October while Dubrov and Vande Hei will return in Soyuz MS-19 in March 2022.

The Soyuz MS-18 launch comes just a few days shy of the 60th anniversary of the first human spaceflight. On April 12, 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin flew into space for a single orbit.

Video courtesy of NASA

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Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a blog about the International Space Station, called Orbital Velocity.

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