Soyuz rocket lifts off with new crew for ISS

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Soyuz launch: Lessons learned

A Soyuz rocket carrying three astronauts is headed for the International Space Station. It is the first liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan since a mission failed in October.

Three astronauts blasted off for the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The three travelers, a Russian, an American and a Canadian are on the first manned mission since a failed launch from the facility on October 11.

New astronauts Anne McClain of the United States and David Saint-Jacques of Canada, together with veteran cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko of Russia, are due to arrive at the space station after a trip of six hours.

A few minutes after the rocket lifted off the Russian space agency Roscomos announced that the capsule was "successfully launched into orbit". 

Aboard the space station, German astronaut Alexander Gerst posted photos of the three current crew members tidying up "for the arrival of our friends," according to a post on Twitter.

"Looking forward to having a full crew of six up here again, at least for a few weeks. Godspeed," Gerst said.

Soyuz is a workhorse

In a successful rehearsal for Monday's flight, a Soyuz cargo vessel took off on November 16 from Baikonur and delivered several tons of food, fuel and supplies to the ISS.

The ISS space laboratory orbits the Earth at roughly 28,000 kph.

Last month Russia said the October launch had failed because of a sensor that was damaged during assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome but insisted the spacecraft remained reliable. 

At a press conference the night before the launch, crew commander Kononenko said the astronauts "absolutely" trusted teams preparing for the flight.

"Risk is part of our profession," the 54-year-old said. "We are psychologically and technically prepared for blast-off and any situation which, God forbid, may occur on board." 

The Soyuz rocket is the only means of reaching the ISS since the United States retired the space shuttle in 2011

Since the mishap, four successful unmanned Soyuz satellite launches have been conducted.

av/rc (dpa, Reuters)

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