olympic-liftoff

Olympic torch launches into space (video, photos)

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We have liftoff.

An Olympic torch blasted into space aboard a Russian rocket in a special part of the Sochi torch relay from Kazakhstan at 11:14 ET on Wednesday night.

NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata took the torch aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket with Sochi 2014 designs.

An Olympic torch has gone into space at least once before. A ceremonial torch went on the space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station before the 2000 Olympics, but this will be the first time it will go into open space on a spacewalk, scheduled for Saturday.

Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy will take the torch as part of a six-hour spacewalk beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET, according to Space.com. It will be tethered to make sure it doesn’t fly away.

The torch will not be lit on the expedition for safety reasons. Photos and video are expected to be made available after the spacewalk.

“We’d like to showcase our Olympic torch in space,” Kotov said, according to Engineering & Technology magazine. “We will try to do it in a beautiful manner. Millions of people will see it live on TV, and they will see the station and how we work.”

UPDATE: The torch reached the International Space Station on Thursday morning.

The torch is expected to return to Earth at 9:50 p.m. ET on Sunday, landing in Kazakhstan.

The crew that will stay at the International Space Station for six months will be able to watch the Olympics (on a delay), according to Interfax.

One of the three Sochi Olympic mascots — a polar bear — was also aboard the rocket:

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Screencap via Space.com

Here are photos from before the launch:

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Journalist says torch flame has gone out at least 44 times

WATCH LIVE: U.S. women’s soccer opens Olympic qualifying — 8:30 p.m. ET

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The U.S. women’s soccer team begins its quest to reach a sixth straight Olympics, live on NBC Sports Live Extra on Wednesday night.

The Americans, winners of the last three Olympic titles and the 2015 Women’s World Cup, play world No. 34 Costa Rica at 8:30 p.m. ET in Frisco, Texas.

WATCH LIVE: U.S.-Costa Rica: 8:30 p.m. ET

The U.S. is in one of two CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament groups with Costa Rica, Mexico (ranked No. 26) and Puerto Rico (No. 108).

The top two nations per group will advance to the tournament semifinals, and the Feb. 19 semifinal winners advance to the Rio Games in August.

The U.S. is heavily favored to qualify for Rio. It is ranked No. 1 in the world, with the next-best North American team ranked No. 11 (Canada, which is in the opposite CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament group).

If the U.S. and Canada win their respective groups, they would not have to play each other to qualify for the Olympics.

The U.S. roster for Olympic qualifying includes 13 of the 23 players from the World Cup, led by Olympic champions Carli LloydAlex Morgan and Hope Solo.

All 15 matches of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament will be streamed live on NBC Sports Live Extra, include four matches on NBCSN.

2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship Schedule

Frisco, Texas – Toyota Stadium
Houston, Texas – BBVA Compass Stadium
Times U.S. Central (U.S. Eastern in parentheses)

FIRST ROUND
Group A: USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica
Group B: Canada, Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana

Wednesday, Feb. 10 (Frisco)
Puerto Rico vs. Mexico                                   5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA vs. Costa Rica                                    7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Thursday, Feb. 11 (Houston)
Guatemala vs. Trinidad & Tobago                  5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guyana                                           7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 13 (Frisco)
Costa Rica vs. Puerto Rico                              12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
USA vs. Mexico                                                 3 p.m. (4 p.m.) NBCSN at 9:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, Feb. 14 (Houston)
Guyana vs. Guatemala                                     12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.)
Trinidad vs. Canada                                          3 p.m. (4 p.m.)

Monday, Feb. 15 (Frisco)
Mexico vs. Costa Rica                                       5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
USA vs. Puerto Rico                                          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) LIVE on NBCSN

Tuesday, Feb. 16 (Houston)
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Guyana                         5 p.m. (6 p.m.)
Canada vs. Guatemala                                      7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.)

SEMIFINALS

Friday, Feb. 19 (Houston)
Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up          4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.) ***
Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up          7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.) ***

FINAL

Sunday, Feb. 21 (Houston)
Semifinal winners                                            4 p.m. (5 p.m.) NBCSN at 11 p.m.

***USA’s semifinal, should the USA advance, will air LIVE on NBCSN

MORE: Hope Solo wouldn’t go to Olympics if she had to choose today

Youth Winter Olympics in Lillehammer broadcast schedule

Youth Olympics
Lillehammer 2016
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NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra will provide daily coverage of the second Youth Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, starting Saturday at 12:30 a.m. ET.

The first broadcast will include the Opening Ceremony at the 1994 Winter Olympic host city. Lillehammer is the second host of the Youth Winter Olympics, which debuted in Innsbruck in 2012.

NBCSN and Live Extra will present 10 consecutive days of hour-long event highlights.

Carolyn Manno, Jimmy Roberts, Liam McHugh and Dave Briggs will combine to host.

The 62-athlete U.S. roster for the Youth Olympics includes two-time reigning Winter X Games halfpipe champion Chloe Kim, who scored what is believed to be the second perfect 100 in top-level snowboarding competition on Saturday (video here).

MORE: Bob Costas to host Rio Olympic primetime coverage

Date Time (ET) Network
Sat., February 13 12:30 a.m. NBCSN, Live Extra
11:30 p.m. NBCSN, Live Extra
Sun., February 14 11:30 p.m. NBCSN, Live Extra
Mon., February 15 11:30 p.m. NBCSN, Live Extra
Tues., February 16 11:30 p.m. NBCSN, Live Extra
Wed., February 17 11:30 p.m. NBCSN, Live Extra
Fri., February 19 12 a.m. NBCSN, Live Extra
Sat., February 20 12:30 a.m. NBCSN, Live Extra
Sun., February 21 1 a.m. NBCSN, Live Extra
Mon., February 22 2 a.m. NBCSN, Live Extra