Liftoff! Rocket blasts into orbit one month after dramatic launch failure

Valeriy Sharifulin  TASS

Valeriy Sharifulin TASS

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. In particular, the crew will work with the Russian Progress MS resupply ships, load and undock the commercial SpaceX DM1 cargo spaceship, work with the Boe-OFT resupply ship, load and undock the Russian manned Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft for the return of the ISS-56/57 crew to Earth, as well as to conduct onboard photo and video surveys of the flight.

Ms McClain, a former military pilot, said the crew "feel very ready" for their mission.

Almost two months after a rocket malfunction forced NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos to abort the launch of a Soyuz mission, a new crew blasted off on Monday for the International Space Station and arrived safe and sound.

Since NASA retired the space shuttle in 2011, Russian Soyuz rockets have been the only way to get people to the International Space Station.

Payette, who completed missions to the space station in 1999 and 2009, says the most unsafe moments come immediately following the launch as the rocket passes through several "critical zones" on its way into space.

The Soyuz successfully docked with the space station a few hours later, with the hatches between the two vessels opening shortly after 2:30 p.m. ET.

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The arrival of the three astronauts restores the space station's crew to six as they join Serena Aunon-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos, who are scheduled to remain aboard until December 20.

McClain, Saint-Jacques and Kononenko will spend more than six months doing research and experiments in biology, Earth science, physical sciences and technology. They managed to emerge safely despite the harrowing ordeal.

October's aborted trip saw two astronauts forced to make an emergency landing just minutes after take off.

A criminal investigation into the failure placed the blame on a sensor which had been damaged during assembly.

The Soyuz spacecraft is now the only vehicle that can ferry crews to the space station, but Russian Federation stands to lose that monopoly in the coming years with the arrival of SpaceX's Dragon and Boeing's Starliner crew capsules.

The incident on 11 October cast a spotlight on the safety of Russia's space programme, whose fleet have suffered a number of technical failures in recent years. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine meanwhile thanked the USA and Russian teams "for their dedication to making this launch a success".

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