A Soyuz rocket with a three-person crew heading for the International Space Station lifted off at 1357 GMT (9:57 a.m. EDT) Wednesday in the final launch currently scheduled from Gagarin’s Start, a historic site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan from where Yuri Gagarin departed on the first human spaceflight in 1961. Beginning next year, Soyuz crews will blast off from a different pad at Baikonur.
Two weeks after a launch pad fire forced a delay, a Japanese H-2B rocket lifted off Tuesday with an HTV cargo freighter to deliver upgraded batteries, experiments and provisions to the International Space Station. Liftoff from the Tanegashima Space Center occurred at 1605 GMT (12:05 p.m. EDT) Tuesday.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the prime contractor for Japan’s H-2B rocket, said Friday that engineers concluded a fire on the launch pad during a countdown earlier this month was most likely sparked by static electricity and stimulated by oxygen. The H-2B rocket launch has been rescheduled for Tuesday to start a resupply mission to the International Space Station.
An unpiloted Russian Soyuz spacecraft, carrying a humanoid robot instead of cosmonauts, parachuted to a rare nighttime landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan Friday (U.S. time) to wrap up a test flight to the International Space Station that paved the way for crewed launches using upgraded Soyuz boosters next year.