BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan – A Soyuz spacecraft and its booster were transported to and set up on Tuesday on a launch pad in Kazakhstan ahead of an upcoming manned mission to the International Space Station.
Russia’s Roscosmos cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and United States NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague are set to travel to the orbital platform from the Russian-leased site on Thursday to embark on Expedition 59.
The spacecraft was transported from the assembly and testing plant at the Cosmodrome and installed at the Number 1 launch complex, the same site from where Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin left Earth to become the first human to journey to outer space in 1961, according to Russia’s center for the operation of space ground-based infrastructure TsENKI.
Hague and Ovchinin had been bound for the ISS in Oct. last year, but they were forced to make an emergency return to Earth after the Soyuz MS-10 they were traveling in underwent a booster failure.
Thursday’s flight to the ISS would last less than six hours, according to NASA, and would see the craft and crew completing four orbits of the Earth.
The Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft was set to launch from the Baikonur site in the Kazakh Steppe on March 14 at 1914 GMT.
The hatch separating the Soyuz module and ISS was expected to open about two hours after the craft docks.
The trio would be joining the ISS’ current inhabitants, NASA’s Anne McClain, Canada’s David Saint-Jacques, of the Canadian Space Agency, and Russia’s Oleg Kononenko, who have been there since December.
“Research investigations will get a boost in productivity with their arrival, which will bring the full crew complement to six,” NASA said in a statement on Monday.
Once aboard to platform, the six would continue to conduct experiments across a range of fields, including in biology, biotechnology, physicals and Earth sciences.
Thursday’s flight would be Ovchinin’s third space flight, Hague’s second, and Koch’s first, according to NASA.
McClain, Saint-Jacques, Hague and Koch would embark on their first spacewalks as part of efforts to maintain and modernize the orbital laboratory, according to NASA.
McClain and Hague were expected to begin work to improve the station’s energy system on March 22.
A week later, McClain and Koch were set to make space history by becoming the first two women to complete a spacewalk.