June 8 (UPI) — The International Space Station has a six-person crew, once more. Three new crew members have joined the Expedition 56 team aboard the space station.
The Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft carrying a pair of astronauts and a cosmonaut successfully docked outside the International Space Station’s Rassvet module at 9:01 a.m. ET Friday.
The docking was expected to happen at about 9:07 a.m., but the craft arrived a few mixtures early.
The Soyuz craft’s hatch was opened at 11:17 a.m. Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos was the first to enter the space station, followed by Serena Auñón-Chancellor of ESA and Alexander Gerst of NASA.
NASA TV provided live coverage of the docking, hatching opening and entrance of the new crew members.
The trio of astronauts have been traveling through space — taking wider and wider circles around Earth — since Wednesday morning, when they successfully launched into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
“The crew will orbit Earth 34 times before the spacecraft’s arrival and docking,” NASA announced in an update earlier this week.
Those orbits have been completed and the space station is fully staffed. The newcomers join Commander Drew Feustel, flight engineer Ricky Arnold of NASA and flight engineer Oleg Artemyev of Roscomos.
This week, while awaiting the arrival of the Soyuz craft, Feustel and Arnold are preparing for next week’s space walk. On Thursday, the duo will spend several hours outside the space station installing high-definition television cameras and wireless communications gear.
“The new cameras will improve the view of approaching commercial crew vehicles for dockings in the future,” NASA announced Thursday. “The new wireless equipment will enable data transmission from payloads mounted on the outside of the Columbus and Kibo modules.”