NASA to live stream Russian space launch showing rocket flags of disputed Ukraine regions

NASA: Soyuz MS-15 launches from Baikonur Cosmodrome

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The launch of the soyuz rocket — which will also bear the name “Донбасс” (Donbas) on its side — will take place from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday. The “Progress 81” cargo mission is scheduled to lift off at 2:32pm local time (10:32am BST). It will carry some supplies up to the International Space Station (ISS).

According to Vesti, the Russian state-owned news source, the rocket “will be dedicated to the republics of Donbas”.

“On the head fairing are the flags of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR).

“The inscription ‘Donbas’ is applied on the second stage.”

A rocket’s head fairing is the nose-cone used to protect its spacecraft payload during passage out of the atmosphere. The second stage on a Soyuz rocket comprises the main body of the rocket, and is fired at blast-off with the four first-stage booster rockets.

In an announcement issued yesterday, NASA said: “NASA will provide live coverage of the launch and docking of a Russian cargo spacecraft carrying about three tons of food, fuel, and supplies for the Expedition 67 crew.”

Coverage of the launch, they said, would begin at 5:15am EDT (10:15am BST) on NASA television, the space agency’s website and the NASA app.

NASA added: “The Progress spacecraft will be placed into a fast-track, two-orbit journey to link up to the aft port of the station’s Zvezda service module at 9:02 a.m. Friday, June 3.

“NASA coverage of rendezvous and docking will begin at 8:15 am [1:15pm]”

It is not known whether NASA will show the name Donbass or the flags in their coverage.

On social media, reaction to the announcement has been mixed.

Twitter user Emanu (@sandia_oreo) posted: “Russian cargo ships should not be allowed to Dock in the ISS.

“Given their military behaviour I’d [not] be surprised if Russia tries to take control of the station for some bs liberation of science.”

The ISS is owned by several nations: the US, Russia, Japan, Canada and the “European Partner”, which treats all the EU states as a single entity.

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Other commenters were more relaxed about the news.

Nico Nobili (@SirNickNite) tweeted: “At least in space (and for space missions) we do not boycott Russia and Russian brilliant minds (like Russian sportsmen).

“The fault lies solely with their government and some autocratic politicians if Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

“Long live missions and space research.”

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