NASA official reaches Russian launch site of US astronaut flight amid tensions

NASA official Kenneth Bowersox arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan ahead of the launch of American astronaut Frank Rubio in a Russian spacecraft on September 21. The Baikonur launch site, which is operated by Russia, is being used to launch Rubio with two Russian cosmonauts. under a cross-flight agreement between NASA and Roscosmos (the Russian space agency).

“An American delegation arrived in Baikonur to take part in the events of the first cross-flight on board a Soyuz spacecraft – they are representatives of NASA and relatives of astronaut Frank Rubio,” according to an official press release. TASS News.

Roscosmos is preparing for the 1st cross-flight agreement mission

Rubio will board a Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft mounted atop the Soyuz 2.1a carrier rocket accompanied by cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin. According to NASA, the rocket is scheduled to take off at 7:24 p.m. IST and the MS-22 capsule will dock with the International Space Station (ISS) after a three-hour journey.

About two hours after the spacecraft docks, astronauts will enter the space station and join the crew of Expedition 67. The ISS currently has seven members, including cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, cosmonauts Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov , as well as Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren and Jessica Watkins from NASA, and Samantha Cristoforetti from ESA (European Space Agency).

After arriving at the space station, Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin will spend six months aboard the orbiting laboratory. Notably, this would be the first flight for Rubio and Petelin as Prokopyev launches his second space mission. The MS-22 mission will be followed by NASA-SpaceX’s Crew-5, which is scheduled for launch on October 3.

NASA’s Crew-5 mission

In exchange for Rubio’s flight, NASA will send Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina in a SpaceX capsule, making her the first to pilot a commercial American spacecraft. Kikina will be accompanied by Mission Commander Nicole Mann and Pilot Josh Cassada as well as Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata. Once all have arrived, the previous seven members will depart the space station for MS-22 and Crew-5.