- Soyuz MS-17
- Kazakhstan (Baikonur)
The fastest time to reach the International Space Station from launching to docking is 3 hr 3 min, achieved on 14 October 2020 by the crewed Soyuz MS-17. The spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 05:45:04 UTC and docked with the ISS's Rassvet module at 08:48 UTC.
The Soyuz MS-17 mission is the first crewed mission to use a technique called "ultrafast rendezvous", which was proven by the automated Progress MS-09 mission in 2018. This technique takes advantage of the alignment of the ISS's orbit with the typical launch profile for missions from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The spacecraft launch into a 51º orbit (angle relative to the equator) as the ISS passes almost directly overhead on the same path. The crew then spend two and a half orbits climbing up to meet the ISS, which orbits around 403 km (250 miles) above the earth's surface.
This launch profile was made possible by recent improvements to Russian spacecraft communication systems, which allow rapid confirmation of orbital parameters after launch. This means the spacecraft can get the go ahead to proceed to the station in the narrow window of opportunity before the alignment is lost. The fast approach is important because it cuts the amount of time astronauts and cosmonauts have to spend crammed into the claustrophobic Soyuz capsule. The previous 4-orbit, six-hour-approach scheme meant a 16-hour working day for the crew, including 10 hours inside a spacesuit. The new US-made crew transfer vehicles (Boeing's Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon) are technically capable of such a fast approach, but this isn't considered an important requirement by NASA because the spacecraft are much larger and more comfortable than Soyuz.
Soyuz MS-17 brought the crew of ISS Expedition 64 to the station, comprising cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov (both RUS), and NASA astronaut Kathleen Rubins (USA).