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Next three-man Soyuz crew – Spaceflight Now

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy prepares for a spacewalk training session at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston. Credit: NASA / James Blair

The next three-man crew to launch on a Soyuz rocket – consisting of two Russian cosmonauts and a veteran NASA astronaut – is training to the International Space Station after their arrival at the orbiting research outpost in April, at least until new. commercial crew ships enter service.

The next Soyuz crew is scheduled to launch April 9 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to kick off an expedition planned to last around six-and-a-half months.

Cosmonaut Nikolai Tikhonov will command the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft, and Andrei Babkin will serve as the primary flight engineer. Both will launch on their first space missions.

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy – making this third spaceflight – will join Tikhonov and Babkin on the Soyuz launch. Cassidy will become commander of the space station’s Expedition 63 crew once the Soyuz docks with the orbiting complex.

“What we’re preparing for… is a six-month duration where it’s just the three of us,” Cassidy said Thursday. I That Niks why we’re getting a lot of extra training at specialist levels for Andrei and Nikolai on all the U.S. side equipment. ”

Cassidy’s seat on the Soyuz MS-16 mission is the last Soyuz seat currently under NASA’s control. NASA assigned Cassidy to Akihiko Hoshide in the mission of the Japanese astronaut after delays in the new Boeing and SpaceX commercial crew ships.

NASA arranges crew transportation for Japanese, European and Canadian astronauts.

Japan We have a great partnership with JAXA (the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), but because we haven't had a commercial crew ready, we want to make sure we don 't de-crew (with US astronauts), ”Bridenstine said last month in an interview with Spaceflight Now. “Remember, this is a $ 100 billion investment by the American taxpayer. For us to de-crew it, I think, would be inappropriate. ”

Cassidy, Tikhonov and Babkin will join three other crew members. After the handover, the outgoing crew will return to Earth, leaving Cassidy and his crewmates in orbit.

Tikhonov is training to use a U.S. spacesuit – known as the Extravehicular Mobility Unit – for possible spacewalks outside the station. Four Russian cosmonauts have performed spacewalks with U.S. Pat. spacesuits, most recently in 2007, before the space station crew was expanded from three to six.

Babkin is training to operate the space station’s Canadian-built robotic arm, which would be used to assist the spacewalker if they needed to. The arm is also required to capture arriving cargo ships, such as those launched by SpaceX, Northrop Grumman and Japan.

With brief exceptions, the space station has typically been a crew of six people since 2009. The crew has been working with a three-person crew.

“With luck, we’ll have commercial crew, whichever one is, and who knows, but we’ll have some visitors, and we’ll be excited for that,” Cassidy said. “But we're also ready operationally, mentally all all that prepared prepared, operations have six people.

Station The station is still a mechanical system, so it has its hiccups, but we've pretty much flushed those hiccups out really well, and we're focusing on what the goal is, and that's what science and research, ”Cassidy said . Crew And we can do a lot of it with all those available crew hours.

“There will be less available crew hours. Because he said. “So it’ll be a slight change in philosophy. Goal crew crew crew crew but but but but but but but but but but but but but but

Russian cosmonauts Andrei Babkin and Nikolai Tikhonov participated in spacewalk training with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy. Tikhonov is training to use NASA’s Extravehicular Mobility Unit for possible spacewalks outside the station. Babkin is training as a robotic arm operator. Credit: Chris Cassidy via Instagram

The space agency – Roscosmos – to ensure that the space station remains the same. crew member through 2020, following Cassidy’s return to Earth next October.

The additional Soyuz seat purchase would guarantee U.S. Pat. commercial crew program. Once Boeing's Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft begin flying astronauts to the station, NASA and Roscosmos will enter a barter arrangement in which Russian cosmonauts and NASA astronauts launch on U.S. and Russian spaceships.

The “in-kind” agreement will not include an exchange of funds. Until the U.S. capsules are certified, NASA must pay Russia to launch its astronauts. The price of a Soyuz seat was more than $ 80 million in NASA’s most recent contract with Roscosmos.

NASA officials currently expect at least one of the new U.S. commercial crew vehicles ready to carry astronauts to the space station in the first half of 2020. The three-person crew on Boeing's spacecraft are slated to spend up to six months on the station. The two-man crew on SpaceX's Crew Dragon test flight was scheduled for a shorter week-long stay on the station, but NASA managers are considering extending the Crew Dragon mission to last several months.

The first Starliner and Crew Dragon missions with astronauts are officially designated as test flights. Once the crewed test flights are complete, the ships will be formally certified by NASA.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ stephenclark1.

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