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Japan and Russia are about to fire a pair of spacecraft to the International Space Station

Published Sep 24th, 2019 2:55PM EDT
iss mission
Image: NASA

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The International Space Station is always a busy place. Astronauts aboard the orbiting laboratory perform experiments, make observations, and carry out all manner of scientific work as the spacecraft cruises around our planet. But this week will be busier than usual, with not one, but two rocket launches sending supplies and travelers to the ISS.

Japanese space agency JAXA is scheduled to send its HTV-8 cargo ship into space on Tuesday, packed with over four tons of vital supplies as well as new scientific equipment and experiments. Meanwhile, Russia’s Roscosmos is slated to send a new trio of ISS crewmembers skyward on Wednesday morning, with NASA’s Jessica Meir, Russia’s Oleg Skripochka, and Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the UAE arriving at the space station by mid-afternoon, EDT.

The resupply mission from JAXA is a relatively standard affair, as the ISS regularly gets shipments of supplies like air, food, and water, as well as new experiments and hardware to be installed on the ever-expanding space station. After launch, the cargo ship will orbit Earth as it prepares to meet the ISS. NASA expects the spacecraft to arrive at the ISS on Saturday morning.

Russia’s Soyuz crew vessel will arrive much more rapidly, leaving Earth in mid-morning on Wednesday and docking with the ISS just six hours later. Two of the new travelers — NASA’s Meir and Russia’s Skripochka — are part of the upcoming Expedition 61 mission, and will replace NASA’s Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, who are scheduled to depart the ISS next week.

The launch of the Soyuz mission will be streamed live by NASA via its NASA TV portal and on Youtube.