On 14 October 2020, Soyuz MS-17 transported three crew members of the Expedition 64 crew to the International Space Station with a record-breaking 3-hour flight. It was the 145th crewed flight of a Soyuz spacecraft. The crew consists of a Russian commander (Sergey Ryzhikov) and a Russian and American flight engineer (Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Kathleen Rubins).

The mission marked the first use of the Soyuz’s new “ultrafast” two-orbit rendezvous flight plan, which saw Soyuz MS-17 arrive at the ISS about three hours after launch. Previously, a Soyuz flight to the International Space Station was taking at least six hours – if launched shortly after the International Space Station orbit passes over the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

However, if the Soyuz rocket misses the necessary launch window for any reason, Soyuz has enough extra fuel to revert to a two-day-long rendezvous. This happened in March 2014 because of an altitude control problem.

The new, ultra-fast two-orbit two-orbit rendezvous has been modeled for quite a while and it has been tested with an uncrewed Russian Progress cargo vehicle, which is nearly identical to the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft used to transport the Expedition 64 crew.

During their six-month mission, Rubins, Ryzhikov, and Kud-Sverchkov will conduct hundreds of science experiments and technology demonstrations in a diverse field of disciplines, including biology, biotechnology, physical, and Earth science.

Soyuz MS-17 makes a record-breaking 3-hour flight to the ISS
Soyuz MS-17 makes a record-breaking 3-hour flight to the International Space Station (ISS).

Expedition 64 crew are expected to join SpaceX Crew-1, the first operational crew rotation flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi will be flying the flight to the ISS for a six-month stay.

Crew-1 was originally scheduled to join Expedition 64 at the end of October; however, a problem with the gas generators of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket during a non-NASA launch in September caused a delay and the flight will not be performed any earlier than early-to mid-November.

Videos of the Soyuz MS-17’s record-breaking 3-hour flight

Soyuz MS-17 launch: A Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle launched the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 14 October 2020, at 05:45:04 UTC (10:45 local time, 01:45 EDT). The Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft, with Expedition 64 crew members Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and NASA astronaut Kathleen Rubins, will attempt for the first time a two-orbit, three-hour journey to the International Space Station. Soyuz MS-17 is scheduled to automatically dock to the station’s Rassvet module at 08:52 UTC (04:52 EDT).
Soyuz MS-17 docking: The Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft automatically docked to the Rassvet module of the International Space Station on 14 October 2020, at 08:48 UTC (04:48 EDT). The International Space Station Expedition 64 crew members, Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov, Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and NASA astronaut Kathleen Rubins, are scheduled to enter the station at around 10:45 UTC (06:45 EDT). Soyuz MS-17 achieved the fastest flight to the International Space Station.
Soyuz MS-17 hatch opening: The Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft hatch was opened on 14 October 2020, at 11:07 UTC (07:07 EDT). The International Space Station Expedition 64 crew members, Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov, Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and NASA astronaut Kathleen Rubins are starting a six-month mission on the ISS, being scheduled to return to Earth in April 2021.

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