The crew of the International Space Station has welcomed three new members of Expedition 61. Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori from the United Arab Emirates arrived at the station aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft at 19:42 UTC on September 25.
The Soyuz MS-15 mission was launched aboard a Soyuz FG rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on September 25 at 13:57 UTC (18:57 local time). The launch was the 70th and final mission of the Soyuz FG rocket, which will be retired in favour of the upgraded Soyuz 2 rocket.
Following a successful launch, the crew of the Soyuz MS-15 arrived at the station just six hours later at 19:42 UTC. The spacecraft was docked to the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module in the Russian section of the station.
The three new crew members were welcomed by Expedition 60 commander Aleksey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Nick Hague and Drew Morgan, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano with the ESA and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov.
The now nine-strong crew is one of the larger to ever inhabit the station at one time. Traditionally, three members of an Expedition crew leave prior to three new members arriving. However, in instances where a crew member is scheduled to stay for a short time, as is the case with Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, the three departing members will stay on for the duration of the spaceflight participant’s mission at which point they will all leave together.
Although one of the larger crews to inhabit the station at one time, it is by no means the largest. During the shuttle era, crews of 13 were housed aboard the station several times. However, crews this size were only sustained for a short time during crew changeovers.