Expedition 13 Commander Pavel Vinogradov, NASA Science Officer and Flight Engineer Jeff Williams and Brazilian Space Agency astronaut Marcos Pontes will dock to the station late Friday. Vinogradov and Williams will spend six months on the complex during Expedition 13. Pontes, flying under a commercial agreement with the Russian Federal Space Agency, will stay on the station for eight days.
The 162-foot tall Soyuz rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 9:30 p.m. EST. About 10 minutes later, the Soyuz was in orbit with its solar arrays and antennae extended. Docking is planned for 11:19 p.m. EST Friday.
Vinogradov, Williams and Pontes will open hatches at about 12:30 a.m. EST Saturday to join Expedition 12 Commander Bill McArthur and Flight Engineer Valery Tokarev inside the space complex.
The five space fliers will be available for a crew news conference at 10:55 a.m. EST Monday. Reporters at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, Kennedy Space Center, Fla., and the Russian Mission Control Center in Korolev, Russia, may ask questions.
The two crews will spend about a week handing over operations of the station, and Pontes will conduct a series of research investigations. McArthur, Tokarev and Pontes return to Earth April 8. At landing, McArthur and Tokarev will have spent almost 190 days in space.
Earlier this week, McArthur found a supply of lithium hydroxide canisters used to scrub carbon dioxide from the air in Russian space suits during a spacewalk. The find ensures Russian suits can be used if a spacewalk is needed.