NASA astronaut, Russian cosmonauts launch to the space station

The launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan occurred at 1:45 am ET on Wednesday.

The trio’s Soyuz capsule is expected to dock with the space station at 4:52 a.m. ET, and the hatch between the space station and the capsule will open at 6:45 a.m. ET, allowing them to enter the station.

This is the second spaceflight for Rubins and Ryzhikov and the first for Kud-Sverchkov, and they will spend six months on the space station.

Along for the ride is Yuri, a little cosmonaut knitted by Kud-Sverchkov’s wife Olga. He serves as the crew’s zero gravity indicator. Essentially, once he begins to float, the crew will know they’ve reached space. Each crew gets to pick their own indicator, according to NASA.

Although NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken successfully launched to the station in May from the United States aboard the SpaceX Endeavour, launches to the space station on the Russian space vehicle Soyuz will still continue in the part of Kazakhstan leased to Russia.

Rubins, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov will briefly overlap with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagner will depart the station using the docked Soyuz capsule and return to Earth on October 21.

The 2nd time around

Rubins begins her second mission by launching on her birthday.

She will vote in the US presidential election from the space station, according to NASA. In fact, it’s her second time voting from space. Rubins voted in the 2016 election during her first six-month stay on the space station between July and October 2016.

But training and launching during a pandemic is a new experience for Rubins — although she’s comfortable with personal protective equipment because of her “old life,” she told CNN in September. Prior to

‘Very High Risk’ Two Large Pieces Of Space Junk Will Collide This Week

A defunct Russian satellite and a spent Chinese rocket just floating around high over Earth could smash into each other within a few days, potentially creating a big mess in orbit with potentially dire long-term consequences.

LeoLabs, which tracks space debris, put out the alert on Tuesday warning that the two large hunks of junk will come within 25 meters of each other and have up to a twenty percent chance of colliding Thursday evening.

That’s considered way too close for comfort by space standards. The two objects have a combined mass of 2,800 kilograms and if they were to smash into each other, the “conjunction” could create thousands of new pieces of space junk that would put actual functioning satellites at risk.

Astronomer Jonathan McDowell, who keeps a close eye on objects in orbit, identified the old crafts as the Russian Parus navigation satellite that launched in 1989 and a Chinese ChangZheng-4c rocket stage that’s been adrift since 2009.

McDowell noted on Twitter that the altitude where the objects are located is also frequented by “lots of large objects” and that a collision would be “very bad.”

There has been a growing concern among astronomers and others in the space community lately about the accelerating proliferation of space debris. The more objects there are orbiting Earth, the higher the risk of collisions. More collisions also increases the risk of future collisions further in a feedback loop that could end in a scenario known as “Kessler Syndrome,” in which access to space becomes too dangerous.

This could be jumping the gun a bit, but with thousands of satellites headed to orbit as part of SpaceX’s Starlink and other planned mega-constellations, this week’s alert could be something that becomes routine

Watch NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and two cosmonauts launch into space tonight

Four years after her first flight to the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will return to space today (Oct. 14). 

Today at 1:45 am EDT (0545 GMT), Expedition 64 astronaut Rubins will fly to the space station aboard Russia’s Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft, launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan along with cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. Soon after her arrival at the station, Rubins will welcome a SpaceX crew aboard and celebrate space station history.

You can watch Rubins and her crewmates launch live here and on the Space.com homepage, courtesy of NASA TV. Launch coverage will begin at 12:45 a.m. EDT (0445 GMT).

Related: NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will vote from space

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins (left) and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov (center) and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov (right) of Roscosmos pose for a photo while in quarantine on Oct. 13, 2020 ahead of their Oct. 14, 2020 flight to the International Space Station.   (Image credit: NASA/GCTC/Andrey Shelepin)

“I’m starting to get excited,” Rubins told Space.com ahead of the upcoming flight. “We just finished our final exams before spaceflight, and it’s a little bit hard to think about anything except for the exams when you’re getting ready for them.”

But, she added, “now that we’re through those, I’m really looking forward to launch and to getting back up into space.”

Rubins’ launch could mark the last time that a NASA astronaut flies to space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, as crewed commercial launch capabilities from the United States are growing rapidly. This past May, for example, SpaceX launched its crewed Demo-2 mission, which sent two NASA astronauts to the space station aboard the company’s Crew Dragon vehicle. SpaceX’s first fully operational crewed mission, Crew-1, will launch four astronauts this fall, and Rubins will be on the space

NASA moon-landing technology hitches ride to space on Bezos rocket

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space company launched a New Shepard rocket for a seventh time from a remote corner of Texas on Tuesday, testing new lunar-landing technology for NASA that could help put astronauts back on the moon.

The entire flight — barely skimming space with a peak altitude of 66 miles (106 kilometers) — lasted just 10 minutes. The booster landed vertically back at the launch complex after liftoff, and the capsule followed, parachuting onto the desert floor.

The capsule carried science experiments, including 1.2 million tomato seeds that will be distributed to schoolchildren around the U.S. and Canada, and tens of thousands of children’s postcards with space-themed drawings that will be returned to the young senders.

NASA’s navigation equipment for future moon landings was located on the booster. The sensors and computer — tested during the booster’s descent and touchdown — will hitch another suborbital ride with Blue Origin. It’s all part of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to put the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024, a deadline imposed by the White House.

“Using New Shepard to simulate landing on the Moon is an exciting precursor to what the Artemis program will bring to America,” Blue Origin’s chief executive Bob Smith said in a statement.

Texas-based Southwest Research Institute had a magnetic asteroid-sampling experiment on board, as well as a mini rocket-fueling test.

Led by Amazon founder Bezos, Washington state-based Blue Origin is leading a team of companies to develop a lunar lander for astronauts. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is also working on a lander, as is Alabama-based Dynetics. NASA chose three teams in this early phase of the Artemis moon-landing program to increase the chances of getting astronauts to the lunar surface by the end of 2024.

Delayed three

How a 2nd-Grade Class Sent a Science Experiment to Space

Back in 2015, students in Maggie Samudio’s second-grade class at Cumberland Elementary School in West Lafayette, Ind., were contemplating an offbeat science question: If a firefly went to space, would it still be able to light up as it floated in zero gravity?

Ms. Samudio said she would ask a friend of hers, Steven Collicott, an aerospace professor at nearby Purdue University, for the answer.

“He teaches a class on zero gravity, and he would be the perfect person to answer the question,” Ms. Samudio recalled in an email.

A day later, Dr. Collicott replied, and Ms. Samudio was surprised by his answer: Instead of guessing, why not actually build the experiment and send it to space?

Blue Origin, the rocket company started by Jeffrey P. Bezos, chief executive of Amazon, was planning to offer the ability for schools to fly small experiments on its New Shepard suborbital spacecraft for as little as $8,000.

“That is a game changer,” said Erika Wagner, the payload sales director at Blue Origin. “Kids as young as elementary school are flying things to space.”

Dr. Collicott, who had sent several fluid flow experiments on New Shepard launches, pointed Ms. Samudio and her second-graders to Blue Origin.

Credit…Steven Collicott

“For the small payload 4 inches square by 8 inches tall, we’re able to fly that for half the cost of high school football uniforms,” Dr. Collicott said. “So really any school district now that affords football can afford spaceflight.”

Cumberland Elementary has not been the only school to see the value of paying for an experiment aboard the New Shepard rocket. A Montessori middle school in Colorado sent up a sensor package designed