NASA’s Peggy Whitson, Oleg Novitskiy of Russian space agency Roscosmos, and European Space Agency’s Thomas Pesquet of France are scheduled for a six-month tour on the orbiting space lab. The trio lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:20 p.m. EST Nov. 17, or 2:20 a.m. Nov. 18 local time.
Docking at the ISS is expected at 5 p.m. EST Nov. 19, when the new crew will join current crewmembers including Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko. Whitson is set to become the first woman to command the space station twice, following an initial tenure in 2007.
Together, the six-member crew mostly will work on hundreds of ongoing ISS science experiments. The boosted complement also will complete a transfer of cargo to an unmanned Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft scheduled to depart later this month.[https://www.orbitalatk.com/space-systems/spacecraft-buses/docs/Cygnus.pdf]
SpaceX and Boeing hold contracts to begin transporting astronauts to the space station, ending a reliance on Russian launches for such crew shuttles during the past several years. But the first such shuttles aren’t expected until at least 2018.