Despite escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a US astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts are poised to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) on a Russian-operated voyage. According to Russian space agency Roscosmos, NASA's Frank Rubio and Russia's Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin are set to take off from the Russia-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 13:54 GMT on Wednesday. Since President Vladimir Putin launched troops into the pro Western Ukraine, Rubio will be the first American astronaut to launch a Russian Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station. As a result, Moscow has been subjected to unprecedented penalties from Western capitals, notably Washington, and bilateral relations have reached new lows. However, the collaboration between the two nations in space has managed to stand out. The sole current female cosmonaut from Russia, Anna Kikina, is scheduled to launch to the orbiting station in early October on a SpaceX Crew Dragon after Rubio. She will be only the sixth professional female cosmonaut from Russia or the Soviet Union to travel into space, and the first Russian to do it on board a SpaceX spacecraft, which is owned by US billionaire Elon Musk. With both flights scheduled to take place, Russian cosmonauts and Western astronauts have sought to avoid the dispute raging on Earth, particularly when in orbit together. NASA's Rubio described the mission as "very essential" and claimed he had become "excellent friends" with his Russian crew members. Despite the increased tensions between Moscow and Washington, Rubio described NASA-Russian space agency Roscosmos cooperation as "excellent and strong." Russia Leaving ISS The US component is in charge of the ISS's electricity and life support systems, and the Russian segment is currently responsible for keeping the space station in its orbit, which is about 250 miles (400 km) above the surface of the earth. But after Washington imposed sanctions on Moscow's aerospace sector, warnings from Dmitry Rogozin, a former head of Russia's space program and a fervent supporter of the conflict in Ukraine, increased tensions in the space sector. In light of the tension, Russia recently said that it would leave the space station after 2024, though no specific date was mentioned and several observers question whether Russia will do so. The decision, according to NASA, is an "unfortunate development" that will make it more difficult to conduct scientific research on the ISS. According to space analysts, building a new orbital station could take longer than ten years, and Russia's space industry, a source of great national pride, would not be able to thrive under harsh sanctions. After the Cold War's Space Race competition, there was optimism for US-Russia cooperation at the time of the ISS's 1998 launch. The Soviet space program prospered during that time. It was proud of some achievements, including the 1961 launch of the first satellite and the 1961 launch of the first man into space. Experts assert that Roscosmos is now simply a shell of what it once was due to corruption scandals, the loss of multiple satellites and other spacecraft, and other factors. SpaceX has taken over Russia's years-long monopoly on crewed missions to the International Space Station, along with millions of dollars in revenue.