A Soyuz FG rocket thundered to life and shot into orbit smoothly Monday carrying three crew members on a six-hour flight to the International Space Station. The problem-free ascent came less than two months after an Oct. 11 launch abort that forced a different crew to carry out safe-but-scary emergency landing.
Veteran Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, flanked by Canadian flight engineer David Saint-Jacques and NASA astronaut Anne McClain, launched toward the International Space Station at 6:31 a.m. EST (1131 GMT) Monday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the first crew launch for Russia’s space program since a Soyuz booster failure led to the emergency landing of a two-man crew in October. The Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft docked with the station at 12:33 p.m. EST (1733 GMT).
Keeping up a tradition dating back to the dawn of the Space Age, a Russian Soyuz rocket emerged from a hangar at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan before sunrise Saturday for rollout to Launch Pad No. 1 at the Central Asia space base, moving into position for liftoff Monday with a U.S.-Russian-Canadian crew heading for the International Space Station.
A normally reliable Soyuz FG rocket malfunctioned two minutes after liftoff from Kazakhstan Thursday, forcing a Russian cosmonaut and his NASA crewmate to execute an emergency abort and a steep-but-safe return to Earth a few hundred miles from the launch site. Russian recovery crews reported the crew came through the ordeal in good shape.