NASA / Victor Zelentsov
At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, NASA astronaut Mike Fossum, left, flight engineer; cosmonaut and Soyuz commander Sergei Volkov, center, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, flight engineer, pose outside their Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft.
updated 6/9/2011 12:35:12 PM ET 2011-06-09T16:35:12

After a two-day orbital journey, three new crew members will arrive at the International Space Station Thursday to begin a months-long stay.

NASA astronaut Mike Fossum, Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov launched toward the space station in a Russian-made Soyuz spacecraft on Tuesday at 4:12 p.m. EDT from the Baikonour Cosmodrome.

Fossum, Volkov and Furukawa are scheduled to arrive at the space station today at 5:22 p.m. EDT. The spacecraft will dock at the Rassvet mini research module in the station's Russian segment. Once the spaceflyers park their Soyuz at the orbiting complex and perform a series of leak checks on the seals, they will open the hatches and float aboard the station.

The arrival of the new spaceflyers will round out the station's Expedition 28 crew, which includes current station residents Ron Garan of NASA and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Andrey Borisenko.

The Soyuz lifts off on Tuesday, headed for the International Space Station.

Garan, Samokutyaev and Borisenko arrived at the space station in early April and will remain at the outpost until their scheduled return to Earth in September. Borisenko is the current commander of the station but will hand over those duties to Fossum before his departure.

The new crew members will live and work at the space station for roughly 5 1/2 months. During that time, they will be involved in scientific experiments and research ranging from life sciences to Earth observation.

Two spacewalks are also planned involving the Expedition 28 crew. The first will be performed by Garan and Fossum in July to retrieve a broken cooling pump module that failed on the station last summer. The spacewalkers will prepare the pump module to be returned to Earth on the space shuttle Atlantis when it visits the station for the final time in July.

Another spacewalk, performed by Russian cosmonauts, is also scheduled to take place later this summer.

NASA is hoping to launch Atlantis on the final flight of the agency's space shuttle program on July 8. The STS-135 flight will deliver much-needed supplies to the station, and return the failed cooling pump to Earth for engineering analysis.

Atlantis' flight will wrap up the agency's 30-year shuttle program, making way for NASA to focus on developing spacecraft to explore beyond low-Earth orbit.

You can follow Staff Writer Denise Chow on Twitter @denisechow. Follow for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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