By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Staff Writer
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The International Space Station welcomed three new residents Wednesday after a smooth Russian launch.
The Soyuz capsule entered orbit from Kazakhstan and, just three hours later, stopped at the space station. American Frank Rubio signed up for a six-month stay along with Russians Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin.
Rubio, a doctor and former Army paratrooper from Miami, traveled on the Soyuz under a new crew-sharing agreement between the two countries. The deal was finalized in July despite Moscow’s war tensions in Ukraine, a sign of continued cooperation between Russia and the United States in space.
Under this cashless swap, Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina will fly SpaceX to the space station from Florida in less than two weeks. NASA and the Russian Space Agency want to keep exchanging seats like this to ensure a constant US and Russian presence on the space station.
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NASA astronauts routinely launched on Russian Soyuz rockets, for tens of millions of dollars each, until SpaceX began flying station crews from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in 2020. A Russian last launched from Florida 20 years ago.
SpaceX aims to launch Kikina along with a Japanese and two Americans on October 3.
The new arrivals will replace the astronauts who have been living there since early spring; crew size will eventually return to seven.
Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti said the view of the launch from the space station was “spectacular.” She tweeted stunning photos of Earth’s bright limb and the rocket’s zigzagging white trail.
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