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Next Space Station crew launch

(7 March 2019 - NASA) Two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut are set to join the crew aboard the International Space Station on Thursday, March 14.

The trio’s arrival will return the orbiting laboratory’s population to six, including three NASA astronauts. This launch will also mark the fourth Expedition crew with two female astronauts.

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Expedition 59 crew members Christina Koch of NASA, Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos and Nick Hague of NASA during pre-launch training for launch March 14, U.S. time, on the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a six-and-a-half month mission on the International Space Station. (courtesy: NASA)

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, are set to launch aboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft at 3:14 p.m. EDT (12:14 a.m. March 15 Kazakhstan time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a six-hour journey to the station.

The new crew members will dock to the Rassvet module at 9:07 p.m. Expedition 59 will begin officially at the time of docking.

About two hours later, hatches between the Soyuz and the station will open and the new residents will be greeted by NASA astronaut Anne McClain, station commander Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency. The current three-person crew just welcomed the first American commercial crew vehicle as it docked to the station on March 3, amidst a busy schedule of scientific research and operations since arriving in December.

The crew members of Expeditions 59 and 60 will continue work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the humanity’s only permanently occupied microgravity laboratory.

McClain, Saint-Jacques, Hague and Koch also are all scheduled for the first spacewalks of their careers to continue upgrades to the orbital laboratory. McClain and Hague are scheduled to begin work to upgrade the power system March 22, and McClain and Koch will complete the upgrades to two station power channels during a March 29 spacewalk. This will be the first-ever spacewalk with all-female spacewalkers. Hague and Saint-Jacques will install hardware for a future science platform during an April 8 spacewalk.

Hague and Ovchinin are completing a journey that was cut short Oct. 11, when a booster separation problem with their Soyuz rocket’s first stage triggered a launch abort two minutes into the flight. They landed safely a few minutes later, after reaching the fringes of space, and were reassigned to fly again after McClain, Kononenko and Saint-Jacques launched in early December. This will be Ovchinin’s third flight into space, the second for Hague and the first for Koch. Hague, Koch, and McClain are from NASA’s 2013 astronaut class, half of which were women—the highest percentage of female astronaut candidates ever selected for a class.