The arrival of three new astronauts on the International Space Station completes the Expedition 48 crew

The Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft approaching the International Space Station (Image NASA TV)
The Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft approaching the International Space Station (Image NASA TV)

A few hours ago the Soyuz-01 MS spacecraft, launched a little more than two days ago from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, has reached the International Space Station carrying three new crewmembers. Kate Rubins of NASA, Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos and Takuya Onishi of JAXA now complete the Expedition 48 crew.

There are several updates of the Soyuz spacecraft on-board systems in its new MS variant. The enhancements include systems ranging from navigation to communications, from the shields that protect it from debris to the solar panels and more.

The docking system has been updated as well and a remote-controlled piloting test was carried out last week with the Progress MS-01 cargo spaceship, which has the new version installed. The freighter left the International Space Station and then was guided to to dock with it again after about half an hour.

For the Roscosmos space agency it’s a big step forward for its spacecraft used to trasport crew to the International Space Station and back to Earth. The Soyuz have maintained an appearance that’s superficially similar over the decades but its various systems have been updated over time and the Soyuz MS is the latest version.

In the coming years the USA will bring into service the SpaceX Dragon V2 and Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to transport astronauts so the long-term future of the Soyuz spacecraft is unclear. However, at least until 2017 it will keep on being the only existing spacecraft for crew transportation so the Russian space agency keeps on improving it.

According to the information supplied, the tests of the MS-01 Soyuz systems performed during the two-day journey were successful. The three new crew members have reached the International Space Station and after almost two hours the spacecraft hatch was opened. The Expedition 48 crew is now complete so the activities aboard the Station can continue at full speed.

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