KENNEDY SPACE CENTER /US/, October 5. /TASS/. Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina is to travel to the International Space Station on Wednesday aboard US spacecraft Crew Dragon.
Kikina is the first Russian cosmonaut to participate in the seat-swap program of NASA and Roscosmos. Talks on the agreement began last year and continued even after the start of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine in February 2022. On July 15, Roscosmos reported that it had signed an agreement on joint cross-flights to the ISS with NASA which involves three flights of Russian cosmonauts aboard the US Crew Dragon.
The crew also includes NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada and JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata. The launch was initially scheduled for October 3, but was postponed over due to Hurricane Ian. The hurricane in Florida did not damage the launch pad or the Falcon 9 caarrier rocket.
US astronaut Frank Rubio was taken to the ISS by Russia’s Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft on September 21 as part of the Russian-US seat-swap agreement.
The crew will start boarding the plane at 8:40 local time (15:40 Moscow time). The blastoff is scheduled for Wednesday noon (19:00 Moscow time). NASA was positive about perspectives for the launch on Wednesday, saying that both the spacecraft and the carrier rocket are ready, and weather forecasts are favorable.
The automatic docking with the ISS is scheduled for 16:57 on October 6 (EST, 23:57 Moscow time on October 5). The orbital mission is expected to continue for 145 days.
On September 8, Kikina departed to Houston, United States, to undergo pre-mission training prior to her flight to the International Space Station (ISS). She arrived at the launch facility in Florida on October 8.
Cosmonaut Dmitry Petelin, who is also a TASS special correspondent aboard the ISS, reported that the Russian crew was preparing to greet its new member. In his words, Kikina will stay in the living compartment of Russia’s Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. Moreover, Petelin and his colleague Sergey Prokopyev are preparing a welcoming surprise for Kikina, but have chosen to keep the details of it secret.
During her orbital mission, Kikina will operate the ERA robotic hand during one of spacewalks.
Although Russian-US ties have deteriorated due to the conflict in Ukraine, Roscosmos and NASA maintain close cooperation and ties. NASA ISS Program Manager Joel Montalbano said during a press conference on Tuesday that the US agency maintains a full staff in Moscow despite the recommendations from the US Department of State to leave the Russian territory.
Kathy Lueders, NASA's space operations chief, earlier said the US space agency valued cooperation and professional relations with Roscosmos despite the complicated geopolitical situation.