A Russian Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft is expected to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Thursday, March 14th, ferrying Expedition 59-60 to the International Space Station to continue the long-lasting tradition of conducting scientific experiments in the microgravitational environment in the name of science.
Expedition 59-60 will be comprised of two American astronauts (Christina H. Koch and Mike Hague) and one Russian cosmonaut (Alexey Ovchinin), and the three will join three existing crew members on the International Space Station to bring the Earth-orbiting space lab back up to full capacity.
It may seem like business as usual between NASA and Roscosmos, but this may turn out to be a historic launch as NASA moves away from its dependence on Russia for crewed launches and instead turns to local commercial space companies such as SpaceX and Boeing.
SpaceX just recently concluded the Demo-1 launch, which demonstrated that the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule would be a seamless transition for NASA’s International Space Station launch needs. SpaceX is poised to launch its first crewed Demo-2 mission by July, aligning with NASA’s future crewed mission needs.
Given the circumstances, it’s entirely possible that NASA could make the shift to commercial spaceflight from American soil sometime this year, and given how infrequent those launches are (every six months or so), the very next launch may very well happen on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket instead of a Russian Soyuz.