Update for 11:50 p.m. EDT: Russia has successfully launched the Soyuz spacecraft carrying the Skybot F-850 humanoid robot. Also, it's name is Fyodor. Read the full story.
Russia is launching a Soyuz spacecraft on a test flight to the International Space Station tonight (Aug. 21), and you can watch the action live.
The mission is uncrewed, but a humanoid robot called Skybot F-850 will occupy the commander's seat. Skybot and his ride are scheduled to lift off atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:38 p.m. EDT (0338 GMT on Aug. 22). You can watch it live here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA, or directly via the space agency.
Soyuz spacecraft usually carry astronauts to the orbiting outpost. But this flight aims to make sure that this version of the Soyuz rocket can launch people safely — a job Russia wants it to start doing next spring.
"The Soyuz 2.1a booster, equipped with a new digital flight control system and upgraded engines, is replacing the Soyuz FG booster that has been used for decades to launch crews into space," NASA officials wrote in a statement.
"The Soyuz spacecraft will have an upgraded motion control and navigation system, as well as a revamped descent control system," they added.
That's where Skybot F-850 comes in. The robot will help collect data about the flight, Russian space officials have said.
If all goes according to plan, the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft will arrive at the orbiting outpost in the early hours of Saturday morning (Aug. 24), delivering 1,450 lbs. (660 kilograms) of cargo to the crewmembers up there. The Soyuz will remain at the station for two weeks, then depart for a return to Earth on Sept. 6, NASA officials said.
This won't be the first International Space Station mission for the Soyuz 2.1a. The rocket has launched uncrewed Russian Progress cargo vehicles toward the orbiting lab, NASA officials noted.
Here's a Russian video from Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin about Skybot F-850.
- Roscosmos: Russia's Space Centers and Launch Sites in Pictures
- The International Space Station: Inside and Out (Infographic)
- Cosmic Quiz: Do You Know the International Space Station?
Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.