Video credit: NASA TV
A Russian Soyuz booster climbed into orbit Monday with a U.S. Army colonel, a veteran Russian cosmonaut and a Canadian flight engineer, kicking off a six-hour chase of the International Space Station.
The three-stage rocket lifted off from historic Launch Pad No. 1 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1131 GMT (6:31 a.m. EST; 5:31 p.m. Baikonur time) with Russian commander Oleg Kononenko in the center seat, flanked on the left by Canadian Space Agency flight engineer David Saint-Jacques, and on the right by NASA astronaut Anne McClain.
Less than nine minutes later, the Soyuz third stage released the three-person crew in their Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft, putting the trio on track to dock with the station’s Poisk module around six hours into the mission.
Kononenko, Saint-Jacques and McClain are scheduled to remain on the station until some time next year, with the final duration of their expedition still unclear as Russia and NASA officials continue re-planning space station missions in the aftermath of a Soyuz launch abort Oct. 11, which cut short the flight of a two-man crew. That left the station with three residents on-board for an extended period.
The fresh crew launched Monday will bring the station’s crew complement back to six until Dec. 20, when the current residents are due to return to Earth.
The launch of the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft Monday marked the first crew flight to blast off since the dramatic Oct. 11 abort, which Russian investigators blamed on a deformed sensor in the separation system of the rocket’s first stage boosters, causing a botched jettison of one of the four strap-on engine blocks.
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