We have lift-off! Russian Soyuz rocket successfully launches three astronauts to the ISS for the first time since near-disaster flight
A Soyuz rocket successfully blasted into space this morning from Kazakhstan
NASA’s Nick Hague, Christina Koch and Russian Alexey Ovchinin blast off today
The two men were on Soyuz that failed minutes after launch back in October
They both escaped unharmed, and say they are confident about the new mission
Astronauts from America and Russia were successfully blasted into space this morning aboard a Soyuz rocket after a failed launch last October.
US astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch, as well as their Russian colleague Alexey Ovchinin launched at 3:14pm (ET) from Kazakhstan, with NASA officials reporting the rocket experienced ‘a textbook ascent.’
Just six hours from launch, the astronauts will dock at the International Space Station.
The launch will be closely watched after the two men’s space journey was cut short in October when a technical problem with their Soyuz rocket triggered a launch abort two minutes into the flight.
Both men escaped unharmed. It was the first such accident in Russia’s post-Soviet history and a major setback for its once proud space industry.
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Speaking to reporters ahead of their six-month mission, flight commander Ovchinin said that some faulty components in the launch vehicle had been found and replaced this week.
‘Yesterday they found some minor malfunctions,’ the 47-year-old said on Wednesday.
He insisted that the launch vehicle was in good shape. ‘There are no problems,’ Ovchinin said.
Hague, 43, said he was looking forward to the flight — his second attempt to get into space.
‘I’m 100 percent confident in the rocket and the spaceship,’ he said. The October abort was caused by a sensor damaged during the rocket’s assembly.
Space expert Vadim Lukashevich said last-minute replacements were nothing out of the ordinary.
‘The Soyuz is an old but reliable machine,’ he told AFP.
Russia’s space industry has in recent years suffered a lot of mishaps including the loss of cargo spacecraft and numerous satellites.
Ovchinin, who spent six months at the ISS during a previous mission in 2016, has been keen to play down the drama of the October emergency landing.
The abort was ‘a little disappointing’ after preparations that lasted a year-and-a-half but also ‘an interesting and needed experience’ that tested the depth of the space programme’s preparedness, he said.
Koch, Hague and Ovchinin’s six-hour flight Thursday be closely watched for another reason too.
SpaceX’s successful test launch to the ISS of its Dragon vehicle has challenged an eight-year monopoly on travel to the space station enjoyed by Russia ever since NASA stopped launches of the Space Shuttle.
Speaking to reporters, the trio and their three-man backup crew stressed cooperation rather than competition following the Dragon mission, seen by some as the dawn of an era of commercial space travel driven by businessmen such as Elon Musk who owns SpaceX.
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Source:: Daily times