The first manned Soyuz flight since the dramatic abort incident in October has lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Carrying NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Konenenko, the Russian Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft launched at 5:31 pm Baikonur time on Monday and docked with the International Space Station eight hours later.
Today's launch marks the first time a Soyuz rocket has ferried a crew into orbit since the October 11, 2018 incident when a Soyuz-FG LV/ Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying American astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin suffered a malfunction two minutes into the flight. This caused one of the first-stage strap-on boosters to improperly separate and collide with the main rocket, resulting in an automatic abort sequence.
The two men were recovered safely, but an intense investigation was instituted by the Russian government. The problem was eventually found in the form of a bent sensor pen that had been damaged during vehicle assembly. New safeguards were established and an unmanned Progress cargo ship launched on November 16, 2018.
Today's flight used a fast orbital maneuver that allowed the Soyuz spacecraft to catch up with the ISS in just six hours after four orbits. With Konenenko acting as pilot, the capsule docked with the station's Poisk module at 12:33 pm station time and the hatch was opened at 2:37 pm.
The arrival of the new crew means that NASA's Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, ESA's Alexander Gerst of ESA and Roscosmos' Sergey Prokopyev will be able to return to Earth on schedule. McClain, Saint-Jacques, and Konenenko will remain onboard for over six months conducting a series of scientific and engineering experiments. They will also greet the crew of the first commercial manned flight when they arrive next year.
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