The Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle launched the Gagarin (Soyuz MS-18) manned spacecraft into near-earth orbit, RIA Novosti reports from the Baikonur cosmodrome.
“There is a separation of the ship from the third stage of the launch vehicle,” announced the announcer at the observation deck.
The launch was carried out on the eve of the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s space flight from the 31st site of Baikonur. Gagarin himself took off in 1961 from the first platform, which is now on storage before the planned reconstruction.
The named ship is carrying three cosmonauts to the ISS: the Russians Oleg Novitsky and Peter Dubrov, as well as the American Mark Vande Haya. For Novitsky this is the third flight, for Wande Haya – the second, and for Dubrov – the first in his career.
Approximately 9 minutes after launch, the spacecraft will enter orbit, and at 14.07 Moscow time, that is, 3 hours 25 minutes after launch, it will moor to the ISS.
Now Russians Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, Americans Kathleen Rubins, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, as well as Japanese Soichi Noguchi are working at the station.
In connection with the upcoming holiday, the inscription “YA Gagarin” was put on the ship’s skin. It will become visible after the spacecraft exits. In the meantime, the ship for protection during flight in the atmosphere is hidden by the rocket fairing, which is decorated with a portrait of an astronaut and the inscription “Year of Gagarin 1961-2021”.
Ten years ago, when the 50th anniversary of the first man’s space flight was celebrated, the Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft received its own name, Gagarin. At that time, the emblem “Gagarin’s flight into space 50 years old” and a portrait of an astronaut flaunted on the utility compartment of the spacecraft, and the inscriptions “Gagarin”, “50 years of Gagarin’s flight into space” and a portrait of an astronaut with the inscription ” Go!”.
The crew is taking the Dreamer spacesuit to the ISS, decorated with drawings of young patients with oncology. They also took with them a new leak detector to continue searching for a crack in the Russian segment of the ISS.
The indicator of weightlessness, which will indicate that the spacecraft is entering orbit, as the astronauts said earlier, was a toy from a kitten named Woof.
It is expected that Novitsky will return to Earth in 191 days – October 17, and Dubrov and Wanda Hai will have to be on the ISS for almost a year – tentatively until March 28, 2022. The increased duration of the flight is associated with the need for filming at the station in October 2021 of the first feature film in space, announced by Channel One and Roscosmos, under the working title “Challenge”.
During his expedition, Novitsky, as the cosmonauts themselves told at the pre-flight press conference, will have to go into outer space twice, and Dubrov will have to go five times to prepare for docking with the ISS and commissioning the Nauka multifunctional laboratory module. The launch of the module is scheduled for July 15.