On April 9, 2020 at 08:05 UTC the Russian “Soyuz MS-16” spacecraft was launched from Baykonur Cosmodrome. The space vehicle was orbited by the Russian “Soyuz-2.1A” rocket-carrier. The spacecraft is piloted by 3 cosmonauts: Commander, Russian cosmonauts Anatoli Ivanishin (center) and Ivan Vagner (right) as well as American astronaut Christopher Cassidy (left).
Photo by Russian Cosmonaut training center.
The launch was performed from Launch Site 31 (Baykonur Cosmodrome Site 31). It was the first piloted launch from Site 31 since 2016. Traditionally, Russia performed piloted launches from Gagarin's Start also known as Baykonur Site 1. After the launch of the last “Soyuz-FG” rocket-carrier on September 25, 2019 (Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft), the launch pad (Gagarin's Start) was closed for modernization for launches of Soyuz-2 launch vehicles until 2023. For the first time the launch of the manned spacecraft took place using the Soyuz-2.1A rocket-carrier. This launcher has replaced the "Soyuz-FG" rocket-carrier to deliver cosmonauts and astronauts to the space station. The main advantage of Soyuz-2.1A in comparison with Soyuz-FG is digital, not analog, control system. The “Soyuz MS-16” space vehicle is to dock with the International Space Station in about 6 hours after the launch. Anatoli Ivanishin, Ivan Vagner and Christopher Cassidy will join current ISS expedition members Oleg Skripochka, Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan.