The International Space Station welcomed three new residents on Wednesday after a smooth launch in Russia.
The Soyuz capsule entered orbit from Kazakhstan and just three hours later, stopped at the space station. American Frank Rubio signed up for a six-month stay with Russians Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin.
Rubio, a doctor and former Miami Army paratrooper, boarded the Soyuz as part of a new crew swap deal between the two countries. The deal was finalized in July despite tensions over Moscow’s war in Ukraine, a sign that Russia and the US continue to understand each other.
As part of this cashless exchange, Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina will fly SpaceX to the space station from Florida in less than two weeks. NASA and the Russian Space Agency want to continue swapping seats like this to ensure a regular US and Russian presence at the space station.
SpaceX aims to launch Kikina with a Japanese and two Americans as early as October 1. 3.
NASA astronauts regularly launched aboard Russia’s Soyuz rockets — at tens of millions of dollars each — until SpaceX began flying crews from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in 2020. A Russian was last launched from Florida 20 years ago.
The newcomers will replace the astronauts who have lived there since early spring; Crew size will eventually revert to seven.
Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti said the view of the launch from the space station was “spectacular”. She tweeted stunning photos of Earth’s glowing limb and the rocket’s zigzag white streak.