Russia successfully launches manned Soyuz rocket following October failure
Russia’s space agency Roscosmos has successfully launched a manned Soyuz rocket carrying astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time since October’s aborted mission.
NASA’s Anne McClain, Russia’s Oleg Kononenko, Canada’s David Saint-Jacques were aboard the launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Monday as part of Expedition 58.
After launching at 11.31am GMT the three are set to dock at the International Space Station at exactly 5.36pm GMT.
The trio aboard the rocket will be on the International Space Station for six and a half months before heading back to Earth.
The evening before the launch, crew commander Oleg Kononenko said the astronauts “absolutely” had trust in the flight preparations.
“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.”
Anne McClain, the 39-year-old former military pilot and NASA astronaut, said the crew looked forward to going up. “We feel very ready for it,” she said.
Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, 48, agreed that the Soyuz spacecraft was “incredibly safe”.
The mission marked the 100th orbital launch of 2018, and the first time in 28 years that humanity reached that number of launches within a calendar year.
It was the first manned mission for Russia since October, when NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin were forced to make an emergency landing shortly after launch following a rocket malfunction.
The malfunction affected the booster rocket, which appeared to fail to separate properly. The pair landed safely about 12 miles east of the city of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.
A criminal investigation into the failure placed the blame on a sensor which had been damaged during assembly.
Russia’s space agency Roscosmos has now successfully launched five Soyuz rockets since the incident, and does not believe there is a chance of the failure repeating.
The astronauts who were forced to make an emergency landing will attempt to launch again next spring.
The launch comes amid apparent political turmoil in Russia, where the Federal Security Service (FSB) has come into conflict with the cash-strapped space agency Roscosmos over a $1bn contract to launch private satellites on behalf of a US company.
The FSB reportedly intervened to demand the cancellation of the contract between US firm OneWeb and state corporation Roscosmos to launch a constellation of internet-connectivity satellites.
But the space agency’s chief executive, former deputy prime minister Dimitry Rogozin, has been bullish about the project, according to Russian news agency Interfax.