Watch live: Station crew to relocate Soyuz spaceship to new Russian module

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EDITOR’S NOTE: NASA TV’s live coverage of the Soyuz MS-18 relocation begins at 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT).

Two Russian cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut strapped into their Soyuz ferry ship Tuesday at the International Space Station, ready to move the craft to a new docking port on Russia’s Nauka lab module that arrived at the complex in July.

The relocation maneuver will clear the way for a new Soyuz crew spacecraft to dock with the Rassvet module at the space station next month.

Russian commander Oleg Novitskiy, flying on his third expedition on the space station, will manually control the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft during the relocation. Novitskiy will be joined by Russian flight engineer Pyotr Dubrov and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei.

All three crew members launched on the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft April 9. They will all be aboard the Soyuz crew module, wearing their Sokol launch and entry space suits, in case problems re-docking with the space station force them to return to Earth.

The Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft will undock from the Rassvet module, located on the lower side of the space station’s Zarya module, at 8:21 a.m. EDT (1221 GMT). After backing away from the complex, Novitskiy, a former pilot in the Russian Air Force, will initially fly the Soyuz spacecraft toward the U.S. segment of the station for a quick photo session, according to NASA.

Then the Soyuz will move back toward the Russian segment to line up with the Nauka docking target.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, commander Oleg Novitskiy, and flight engineer Pyotr Dubrov tried on their Sokol spacesuits Sept. 21. They will wear the suits during the relocation maneuver Tuesday. Credit: NASA

Nauka is attached to the lower, or Earth-facing, side of the Zvezda service module near the aft end of the space station. The Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module is the newest element of the complex, and the largest addition to the station in more than a decade.

The new Russian lab arrived at the space station July 29, eight days after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Nauka ran into several problems after launch, then a glitch inadvertently commanded the module’s control thrusters to start firing a few hours after docking, temporarily causing the space station to lose control of its orientation.

If the relocation Tuesday goes according to plan, the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft is scheduled to dock with the Nauka module at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT).

It will be the 20th Soyuz port relocation in the history of the International Space Station, and the second this year.

With the Rassvet docking port free, the relocation will clear the way for launch of a three-person crew on Russia’s Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft Oct. 5 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov, a veteran cosmonaut, will lead the Soyuz MS-19 crew for the flight to the space station. Klim Shipenko and Yulia Peresild, a Russian film director and actress, will join Shkaplerov.

Shipenko and Peresild will spend 11 days on the space station to film a Russian feature length movie titled “The Challenge.” The two-person film crew will leave the station and return to Earth on Oct. 16 aboard the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft with Novitskiy.

The Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft, seen in this illustration docked with the Rassvet module, will move to Nauka module just behind Rassvet. Credit: NASA

Shkaplerov will remain at the station for more than five months. Dubrov and Vande Hei, who launched in April, will also stay behind at the space station. Their stays in space were extended to make room for the short-duration mission by Shipenko and Peresild.

Dubrov and Vande Hei will now remain in space for nearly one year before returning to Earth with Shkaplerov in March on Soyuz MS-19.

The Soyuz relocation maneuver Tuesday will be followed later this week by the departure of a SpaceX Cargo Dragon supply ship.

The Cargo Dragon has been docked at the station since Aug. 30. After the space station astronauts finish packing cargo and experiments into the supply ship, the Cargo Dragon is set to undock at 9:05 a.m. EDT (1305 GMT) Thursday, setting up for splashdown off the coast of Florida around 11 p.m. EDT Thursday (0300 GMT Friday).

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