Soyuz MS-01 crew
The crew of the Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft, Takuya Onishi, Anatoly Ivanishin and Kate Rubins. Credit: NASA/Stephanie Stoll

An upgraded version of a Soyuz spacecraft is set to lift off tonight to send three people to the International Space Station.

A Soyuz rocket is scheduled to launch the Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 9:36 p.m. Eastern.

On board the Soyuz spacecraft will be Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi and American astronaut Kate Rubins, who will arrive at the ISS shortly after midnight Eastern on Saturday.

The flight is the version of the new Soyuz-MS series with incremental changes, such as improved communications. [CBS]

Earth imaging company UrtheCast has laid off employees at its San Francisco office. The company laid off 12 employees in its San Francisco office late last week, and offered three other people the option to continue to work for the company remotely. Those employees had been working on software products, including an imagery system called UrthePlatform, which will now be primarily done from the company’s Vancouver offices. UrtheCast operates imaging satellites and camera on the ISS, and has plans for its own satellite constellation. [SpaceNews]

Scottish satellite company Clyde Space doesn’t expect Brexit to have a major impact on its business. Clyde Space, which has 60 smallsats on order from various customers, says it does little business in Europe and thus should not suffer major effects from Great Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. Clyde Space’s position stands in contrast to another British smallsat company, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., which is a major contractor on the EU’s Galileo navigation satellite system. [SpaceNews]

Canada is taking a greater interest in space security issues. Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion received reports last November warning that the “viability of the space infrastructure is increasingly threatened” by hostile actions, orbital debris and space weather. It’s unclear what steps the Canadian government might take to address those concerns. The ministry declined to comment on the paper. [Toronto Star]

A Chinese satellite launched last month is generating speculation in the West about its real purpose. The “Roaming Dragon” satellite was one of several launched on the first Long March 7 in June with a mission, according to Chinese reports, of testing technologies to remove orbital debris. Its maneuverability, and its robotic arms, have raised questions about its ability to also serve as an anti-satellite weapon. One U.S. expert notes that the Chinese satellite, which would not be able to approach another satellite without being detected, poses less of a risk than direct-ascent ASATs that China has already tested. [The Daily Beast]

Slovenia has become an associate member of the European Space Agency.Slovenian Minister of Economic Development and Technology Zdravko Počivalšek signed an association agreement at ESA headquarters Monday, allowing Slovenia to directly participate in optional ESA programs. Slovenia had been cooperating with ESA under earlier agreements dating back to 2008. [ESA]

Titan could host chemistry that forms the groundwork for life even without the presence of liquid water. A new study examined models for chemical reactions on Saturn’s largest moon, which has a dense atmosphere but is too cold to support liquid water. Those models suggest that polyimine, a chemical formed from hydrogen cyanide molecules, could store energy used to support chemical reactions to help form organic compounds, a “potentially exotic kind of biochemistry,” said one researcher. []

A giant impact 65 million years ago teamed up with volcanoes to finish off the dinosaurs. Analysis of isotopes in fossils from that era showed that volcanic eruptions 66 million years ago caused temperatures to increase by as much as 11 degrees Celsius. Those temperatures were dropping when an asteroid hit the current-day Yucatan Peninsula, causing another spike. The result was a “theoretical ‘one-two punch,’” one scientist said, that helped kill off the dinosaurs. [GeekWire]

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...