MOSCOW — A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three crewmembers successfully joined with the International Space Station today (June 8), doubling the population of the orbiting complex to six people.
The Russian-built Soyuz MS-09 docked with the space station a few minutes ahead of schedule, at 9:01 a.m. EDT (1301 GMT, 3:01 p.m. local Moscow time). The new arrivals were NASA's Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst.
Here in the mission control center in Moscow (also known as TsUP), controllers remained focused on their work through the docking and the minutes following in which the Soyuz latched on to the space station. All operations were reported as nominal and the crew arrived at the space station six minutes ahead of their scheduled docking.
The Soyuz linked up with the ISS over eastern China, attaching to the Rassvet module, and the hatch opened a bit more than two hours later, prompting a huge cheer from Moscow mission control — especially when Gerst showed up on camera.
The three spaceflyers (only Gerst had flown before) are likely happy for more room after spending two days inside of their Soyuz spacecraft. The trio lifted off June 6 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:12 a.m. EDT (1112 GMT, 5:12 p.m. local Kazakhstan time).
Already on board the station are NASA astronauts Drew Feustel (commander of the current mission, Expedition 56) and Ricky Arnold, as well as Oleg Artemyev, of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. Those three will stay on the orbiting lab until October, while the three new arrivals are set to stay until December, according to NASA.
The next big event at the station is a spacewalk set for June 14; Feustel and Arnold will install new high-definition cameras to help future commercial spacecraft line up with the station's international docking adapter, NASA officials said in a statement.
Editor's note: Elizabeth Howell is a freelance space reporter covering the launch and docking of Expedition 56 for Space.com from Baikonur Cosmodrome and Moscow. You can follow her epic Russian rocket-launch road trip here.