NASA-Russian Trio Launch, Dock To Space Station
HOUSTON—Russia’s Soyuz MS-24 crew capsule autonomously docked to the International Space Station (ISS) on Sept. 15, delivering veteran cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and two first-time space fliers—cosmonaut Nicolai Chub and NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara—to begin respective one-year and six-month missions.
The MS-24 was launched atop a Soyuz-2.1a.rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:44 a.m. EDT, or 8:44 p.m. local time, on a fast-track trajectory that led to a docking with the ISS Russian segment’s Rassvet module at 2:53 p.m. EDT.
All three space fliers are participants in an Expedition 69/70 ISS crew exchange that began with the Aug. 26-27 SpaceX launch and ISS docking of NASA’s Crew-7 fliers. As part of Expedition 70, Kononenko, Chub and O’Hara will serve alongside Crew-7’s NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Satoshi Furukawa and cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov.
Kononenko is starting his fifth ISS mission, having served a total of 734 days on previous missions in 2008, 2011-12, 2015 and 2018-19, and twice as commander of the orbital science laboratory. Chub, a technical systems engineer and economist, was selected for cosmonaut training in October 2012.
O’Hara, an aerospace engineer with experience in the engineering and operations of deep ocean submersibles, was selected by NASA for astronaut training in 2017.
Kononenko and Chub are to live and work aboard the ISS for a year. O’Hara is to serve for six months.
As they were launched, NASA announced on Sept. 15 that O’Hara is to be replaced in March 2024 for return to Earth by veteran NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson. Dyson will launch on the Soyuz MS-25 with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy and Belarus spaceflight participant Marina Vasilevskaya. Novitskiy and Vasilevskaya are to spend about 12 days aboard the ISS before returning to Earth with O’Hara aboard the MS-24.
Dyson, who will be launching to the ISS for a third time, is to return to Earth in the fall of 2024 with Kononenko and Chub aboard the MS-25 spacecraft. Dyson trained as O’Hara’s backup for the current mission.
Kononenko, Chub and O’Hara were greeted aboard the orbital science laboratory after their Sept. 15 launch sprint by cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, the current Expedition 69 ISS commander; Dmitri Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, as well as Moghbeli, Mogensen, Furukawa and Borisov.
The newcomers are replacing Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio, who are scheduled to depart the ISS on Sept. 27 aboard their Soyuz MS-23 capsule for a parachute-assisted descent into Kazakhstan, ending an extended 371-day mission.
Rubio’s 371-day trek breaks the previous record for the longest space mission by an American astronaut—355 days set by NASA’s Mark Vande Hei upon his return to Earth from the ISS on March 30, 2022.
Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio were launched to the ISS on Sept. 21, 2022. Their Soyuz MS-22 experienced an external coolant leak while docked to the ISS Russian segment in mid-December. The likely cause was traced to an impact from a micrometeoroid or orbital debris.
The Russian space agency deorbited the MS-22 uncrewed and launched the MS-23 replacement, also uncrewed, on Feb. 23 for an automated docking with the ISS Russian segment two days later.