A crew of two Russian cosmonauts and one American astronaut safely blasted off on Monday in a rocket heading for the International Space Station(ISS) – the first since NASA’s 30 year old space shuttle program ended earlier this year.
The mission was delayed in September over safety concerns after an automated Russian Progress spacecraft broke up in the atmosphere, shortly after lift-off. The mishap was the worst in decades. The Russian space agency, Roskosmos, subsequently confirmed that the accident occurred as a result of a fuel pipe – an “isolated” incident.
The crew aboard the spacecraft is destined to meet the crew aboard the ISS and resupply the ISS. The launch occurred at 4:14 UTC/GMT with Flight Engineer Shkaplerov reporting “The spaceship has reached orbit” minutes later.
Flight Engineer Shkaplerov is joined by cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, both on their first flight into space. The US member of the crew is Daniel Burbank, a veteran astronaut, making his first voyage into space on the Soyuz spacecraft.
The crew is expected to join the crew on the ISS on November 16, after a two day journey in the Soyuz TMA-22 capsule.
Russia is now the only country that can carry crews and supplies to the ISS. NASA is helping US-based private companies develop orbital transport capabilities with the goal of regular flights by the end of 2016.