Russia today successfully used its Soyuz-2 rocket to launch three astronauts to ISS.
Because this flight is occurring three days before the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first human flight in space, the Russians gave the Soyuz capsule his name to honor him and the event. The spacecraft docked with ISS only two orbits later.
The crew also included an American, Mark Vande Hei, who is flying as part of the new barter agreement with Russia, whereby Americans fly in Soyuz in exchange for Russians flying in American commercial capsule. This was the first time NASA paid nothing for a flight on Soyuz since the shuttle retired a decade ago.
The return to Earth of Vande Hei and his fellow crew member Pyotr Dubrov will be on the next Soyuz capsule to launch in October, MS-19, in order to accommodate a short visit by a Russian movie director and actress.
Roscosmos will launch Soyuz MS-19 no earlier than October 5 with Commander Anton Shkaplerov and two civilian spaceflight participants. Russian film director Klim Shipenko and a Russian actress, who is yet to be named, will film a movie called “The Challenge” and spend approximately a week aboard the ISS before returning to Earth aboard Soyuz MS-18 with Novitsky.
With this commercial manned flight there will be two such flights in the fall, the Dragon Inspiration4 flight that will not dock with ISS and this Russian one. Both will then be followed by the Axiom commercial tourist flight on a Dragon capsule early in ’22. Expect such commercial manned flights to become somewhat routine in the coming years.
UPDATE: China also launched an Earth observation satellite yesterday, using its Long March 4B rocket
The leaders in the 2021 launch race:
2 Rocket Lab
The U.S. still leads China 14 to 8 in the national rankings.
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