Soyuz rocket reaches International Space Station in record time

Ellena Cruse
·2-min read
Reuters/ AFP
Reuters/ AFP

Russia's Soyuz rocket has reached from Earth to the International Space Station in a record time - the equivalent of to travelling from London to Sheffield by car.

The spacecraft made the trip in three hours and three minutes, half the usual journey time.

Live footage broadcast by Russia’s space agency Roscosmos showed the rocket, carrying a US astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts, hurl through space.

Kate Rubins, a microbiologist who in 2016 became the first person to sequence DNA in space, and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov reached the space station roughly three hours after liftoff.

The mission is the last scheduled Russian flight carrying a US crew member, as America revives its own crew launch capability in an effort to drive down the cost of sending astronauts to space.

Soyuz spacecraft launching on Wednesday (AFP via Getty Images)
Soyuz spacecraft launching on Wednesday (AFP via Getty Images)

Since the space shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA has relied on Russia to ferry its astronauts to the space station, an orbiting laboratory 250 miles (400 km) above Earth that has housed international crews of astronauts continuously for nearly 20 years.

The US space agency in 2014 contracted Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Boeing Co to build competing space capsules in an effort to reclaim NASA’s launch independence.

NASA's Kate Rubins, center, with Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov (AP)
NASA's Kate Rubins, center, with Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov (AP)

The $8 billion programme enabled SpaceX’s first crewed trip to the space station in May, marking the first from home soil in nearly a decade.

NASA has bought additional crew seats from Russia as its public-private crew program faced delays - with Rubins’ $90.2 million mission being the most recent - and in July ceased negotiations to purchase more as the agency prepares to start operational missions in November using SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule.

Soyuz flying though space (via REUTERS)
Soyuz flying though space (via REUTERS)

“We have an incredible partnership,” Ms Rubins said in an interview from Russia’s Star City before her flight.

“We’ll continue to train crews over here and we’re going to have cosmonauts come to the Johnson Space Center and train.”

NASA and Roscosmos have committed to continue the flight-sharing partnership in exchange for flying Russian astronauts on US vehicles and to fly US astronauts on Russian rockets when needed, a spokesperson for Roscosmos told said

“Of course, mutual flights are of interest for ISS reliability and continuous operations,” the spokesperson added

“This approach (mixed crew flights) will ensure delivery of the crew to the station, should a problem with the partner spacecraft occur.”