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The Russian-built Sukhoi Superjet 100’s first three missions in 2018 will be used to test its ability to carry and return cargo and people to the international space station.
The four-banked Soyuz rocket will loft the Soyuz-2.1b, which will then fly to the space station atop a Soyuz rocket under the Russian cosmonaut Maksim Makarov’s command, or to a robotic arm on the station, as well.
The Soyuz-2.1A Soyuz-2.1B rocket will be positioned to launch the station on the third mission of the new-build spacecraft, which is a two-part booster featuring two strap-on solid rocket boosters, a new first stage and a new third stage.
These were the first two of three new Soyuz vehicles to fly during the year, which means the company is still racing to complete its third flight of the new vehicles, which would fly in 2019 instead of 2017.
Skipper TSN 16, a Soyuz-2, is on a 10-day trip to the space station, which began Monday (Feb. 11). A Russian launch crew will arrive in orbit on Tuesday (Feb. 12) to conduct a spacewalk to patch the Soyuz with a small piece of hardware that could come in handy during a future spacewalk.
The first Soyuz-2 mission is scheduled for March 2 with the debut of the Soyuz-2.1B, which will launch from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome with two people and a Russian science experiment.
Next, Russian Space Agency chief Anatoly Ivanishin will be in charge of an 11-day crewed visit to the International Space Station on March 18 and 19 to conduct scientific experiments.
Sukhoi has not yet released any mission dates, however SpaceX is providing several Soyuz launch date options for the three missions. The company has not yet released its 2018 Falcon Heavy launch and commercial launch partners for ULA’s Atlas V v5 launch vehicle.