Despite frosty relations between the US and Russia, cosmonaut Anna Kikina is poised to become the first Russian woman to launch a US rocket in nearly two decades and the first to fly a SpaceX Crew Dragon shuttle to the International Space Station.

Kikina, 38, the only active-duty woman in the Russian cosmonaut detachment, will join Crew 5 commander Nicole Mann, Josh Kasada and Japanese veteran Koichi Wakata for launch from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 12:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday. .

Crew 5 astronauts during a recent visit to Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center are (left to right) Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina, Crew Dragon commander Nicole Mann and pilot Josh Kasada.


Forecasters predicted good local weather, although mission managers were closely monitoring strong winds and waves along the spacecraft’s northeast trajectory over the Atlantic Ocean, which could cause problems for launch vehicle recovery operations and abort scenarios.

Mann, a Marine Corps colonel and F/A-18 aircraft carrier pilot, is the first Native American woman assigned to a space flight. Kasada has a doctorate in high-energy physics and is an accomplished Navy pilot in his own right. Wakata, who has a doctorate in aerospace engineering, is making his fifth space flight with a total of 347 days in orbit.

“Looking forward to tomorrow’s launch. Let’s do it!” Mann tweeted.

Kikina, like Mann and Kasada, is a novice, but like her American crewmates, she has undergone years of training while waiting to be assigned to the flight. The last-minute switch from the expected Soyuz flight to Crew Dragon caught her by surprise.

“My supervisors just assigned me and told me, do you want to be part of crew 5?” Kikina told reporters, speaking in broken English. “Yes! Why not? But I was very surprised.”

If all goes well, Mann and Cassada will follow an automated rendezvous and approach to the space station, moving to dock at the lab’s forward port around 4:57 p.m. Thursday.

Crew 5’s Falcon 9 rocket was docked at Pad 39A early Saturday morning. In a rarity for SpaceX, the rocket’s first stage will make its maiden flight when it blasts off on Wednesday.


They will be welcomed aboard by Crew 4 Commander Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hynes, Jessica Watkins and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristofaretti, the station’s current commander. They launched aboard Crew Dragon last April and plan to return to Earth on October 13.

Mann and her crew mates are also waiting at the ISS: cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitri Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, who arrived at the laboratory complex on September 21 aboard the Soyuz spacecraft.

Initially, Kikina planned to fly on board “Soyuz”. But she was assigned to Crew 5 after NASA and Roscosmos, Russia’s federal space agency, agreed to a new space-swapping plan that calls for at least one American astronaut and one Russian cosmonaut to be permanently aboard the station.

That way, if a medical emergency or some other problem forces an American or Russian spacecraft to depart early, taking the crew with them, both countries will still have personnel on board to operate their respective systems.

“With the Soyuz flight and the Crew-5 flight, we will begin what we call an integrated crew, or exchange flight, where one crew member from the Russian segment will fly on the American craft and one American will fly on the Russian one,” the veteran- cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev. , now a senior Russian space manager, told reporters on Monday.

“And this type of sharing will increase the strength of our program, and we will continue this practice to make our program more robust.”