Enlarge / An Orthodox priest hands out Easter eggs to the media at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad after blessing the Soyuz rocket on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 in Kazakhstan.
Barring any unexpected technical problems, a Soyuz rocket will launch Thursday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying just two people: first-time NASA astronaut Jack Fischer and veteran Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin.
The launch will occur during the afternoon, local time, but will come early in the morning in the United States, at 3:13am EDT.
The rocket launch comes amid some uncertainty after a Soyuz rocket carrying an uncrewed Progress spacecraft exploded about six minutes into flight on December 1, 2016, wiping out 2.6 tons of food, fuel, and supplies.
This was due to a problem with the rocket’s third-stage engine, the kerosene-fueled RD-0110.
That Progress spacecraft launched on an older Soyuz-U rocket, and crewed launches now take place on a more modern Soyuz-FG rocket, but the two rockets share a common third stage.
This is now the second time the third-stage engine has failed in some way in the last five years, as a similar problem occurred during the 2011 launch of Progress 44P.
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