A NASA astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts launched Wednesday morning to the International Space Station from Kazakhstan.
Miami native and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, 46, along with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin are embarking on a six-month research expedition at the ISS, WKMG in Orlando reported.
Liftoff at the Baikonur Cosmodrome occurred at 9:54 a.m. EDT. After a roughly three-hour flight, the trio is expected to climb through the hatch of the space station at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The mission is Rubio’s first trip to space after becoming a NASA astronaut in 2017. The mission also marks the first flight of a U.S. crew member on a Russian spacecraft since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Rubio, who graduated from Miami Sunset Senior High School before earning a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the United States Military Academy at West Point, is filling the Soyuz spacecraft seat as part of a swap agreement between NASA and Roscosmos. Under the deal, U.S. astronauts can ride Russian spacecraft and cosmonauts can join U.S. crewed launches free of charge.
Rubio is now the first Salvadoran-American to ever go to space. He will also go to the moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis program.
On Oct. 3, Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina is scheduled launch to the ISS on a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center. The mission, called Crew-5, will also consist of two NASA crewmates and a Japanese astronaut.
NASA astronauts routinely launched on Russian Soyuz rockets — for tens of millions of dollars apiece — until SpaceX started flying station crews from the Space Coast in 2020.