Soyuz rocket: First astronauts to launch since October failure

Russia launches first manned voyage to ISS since rocket accident

Crew from aborted Soyuz mission to get second chance at ISS mission

Stakes were high for Monday's launch, the first to carry a crew since a previous mission to the space station in October was aborted two minutes into the flight after a booster failed to properly separate from the rocket.

Space station veteran and mission commander Oleg Kononenko, 54, Quebec family doctor David Saint-Jacques, 48, and Anne McClain, 39, a United States army helicopter pilot who earned masters degrees from the University of Bath and Bristol in the United Kingdom, are scheduled to blast off at 2:30pm Moscow time from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. You can see more awesome launch photos in our full gallery.

A Russian Soyuz rocket rises from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying three spacefliers into orbit.

The astronauts on board, NASA's Nick Hague and Roscosmos' Alexey Ovchinin, had to make a dramatic escape 31 miles above the Earth in a capsule that was ejected from the rocket.

But today, everything went precisely according to plan, with an on-schedule and anomaly-free liftoff at 6:31 a.m. EST (1131 GMT).

The trio aboard the rocket will be on the International Space Station for six and a half months before heading back to Earth.

It is the first manned space mission since the October drama, which ended in an emergency landing after a failure mid-flight.

Since the mishap, four successful unmanned Soyuz satellite launches have been conducted to clear the path for the crew's launch on Monday.

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

They're due to arrive at the ISS six hours after launch, and they'll board the station less than two hours after that.

RFE also quoted McClain, 39, saying: "We feel very ready for it".

NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Oleg Kononenko of Russian space agency Roscosmos docked with the station at 11:33 p.m. (1723 GMT; 12:33 p.m. EST) Monday.

Investigators blamed a faulty sensor which they said had been damaged during assembly at the Kazakh site.

There, they'll meet the European Space Agency's Alexander Gerst, NASA's Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Roscosmos' Sergey Prokopyev, the current crew of the ISS who'll use the Soyuz to return to Earth on December 20.

Ahead of Monday's launch a Russian Orthodox priest blessed the spaceship on its launchpad, in accordance with tradition.

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