Astronauts from America and Russia were successfully blasted into space today aboard a Soyuz rocket after a failed launch last October.
US astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch, as well as their Russian colleague Alexey Ovchinin launched at 3:14pm (ET) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with NASA officials reporting the rocket experienced ‘a textbook ascent.’
‘Everything is nominal on board and the crew is feeling very well,’ an announcer said on a NASA livestream of the launch.
Just six hours from launch at 9:07pm (ET), the astronauts are set to dock at the International Space Station, where they’ll stay for the next six and a half months.
The launch has been closely watched after the two men’s space journey was cut short in October when a technical problem with their Soyuz rocket triggered a launch abort two minutes into the flight.
Both men escaped unharmed. It was the first such accident in Russia’s post-Soviet history and a major setback for its once proud space industry.
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Astronauts from America and Russia were successfully blasted into space today aboard a Soyuz rocket after a failed launch last October. It took off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Speaking to reporters ahead of their six-month mission, flight commander Ovchinin said that some faulty components in the launch vehicle had been found and replaced this week.
‘Yesterday they found some minor malfunctions,’ the 47-year-old said on Wednesday.
He insisted that the launch vehicle was in good shape. ‘There are no problems,’ Ovchinin said.
Hague, 43, said he was looking forward to the flight — his second attempt to get into space.
‘I’m 100 percent confident in the rocket and the spaceship,’ he said. The October abort was caused by a sensor damaged during the rocket’s assembly.
Space expert Vadim Lukashevich said last-minute replacements were nothing out of the ordinary.
US astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch, as well as their Russian colleague Alexey Ovchinin launched at 3:14pm (ET) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with NASA officials reporting the rocket experienced ‘a textbook ascent’
‘The Soyuz is an old but reliable machine,’ he told AFP.
Russia’s space industry has in recent years suffered a lot of mishaps including the loss of cargo spacecraft and numerous satellites.
Ovchinin, who spent six months at the ISS during a previous mission in 2016, has been keen to play down the drama of the October emergency landing.
The abort was ‘a little disappointing’ after preparations that lasted a year-and-a-half but also ‘an interesting and needed experience’ that tested the depth of the space programme’s preparedness, he said.
Koch, Hague and Ovchinin’s six-hour flight Thursday be closely watched for another reason too.
US astronauts Christina Hammock Koch (left) and Nick Hague (right) together with Russian colleague Alexey Ovchinin successfully blasted off Thursday on a mission to the ISS. The two men were on a Soyuz that was forced to abort in October two minutes after lift-off
Photographers take pictures as the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft carrying the crew formed of Aleksey Ovchinin of Russia, Nick Hague and Christina Koch of the U.S. blasts off to the International Space Station
SpaceX’s successful test launch to the ISS of its Dragon vehicle has challenged an eight-year monopoly on travel to the space station enjoyed by Russia ever since NASA stopped launches of the Space Shuttle.
Speaking to reporters, the trio and their three-man backup crew stressed cooperation rather than competition following the Dragon mission, seen by some as the dawn of an era of commercial space travel driven by businessmen such as Elon Musk who owns SpaceX.
The Soyuz rocket is seen at dawn on launch site 1 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The three astronauts are now headed to the International Space Station, where they’ll be for 6.5 months
Koch, a 40-year-old space rookie, called the SpaceX success a ‘great example of what we’ve been doing for a very long time.’
‘And that is cooperating among partners and making things that are very difficult look easy,’ she said.
There has already been one successful manned launch to the ISS since the failed Soyuz mission.
The trio’s arrival will return the orbiting laboratory’s crew to six in all.
Two astronauts who survived an aborted Soyuz launch last year were preparing for blast-off Thursday aboard the giant Soyuz MS-12 rocket from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan
How do you make an emergency landing in a Soyuz rocket? Two astronauts’ dramatic 7G, 4,970mph ballistic re-entry
The astronauts of the Soyuz MS-10 are said to have switched into ‘ballistic descent mode’ once they were notified of the second stage booster fault.
This means the core automatically separated from the faulty booster and turned back to Earth.
The rocket came in at a much sharper angle than normal, allowing the craft to head as quickly as possible to the ground.
It is believed the rocket was travelling at more than 8,000 miles per hour (12,800kph) during its descent.
The astronauts would have experienced G-force pressure as high as 7Gs.
Rockets use boosters to provide the thrust they need to launch from Earth and breech the atmosphere.
They set the trajectory for the flight, and if they aren’t running at full capacity could send the rocket in completely the wrong direction.
The Soyuz MS-10 rocket had four first-stage boosters strapped to its central core, which housed the second stage booster.
A booster can fail for any number of reasons, including incorrect fuelling, mechanical faults, computer glitches and more.
In the event of a booster failure, mission control will normally cancel the flight to avoid endangering the astronauts on board.
The rocket is put into an emergency landing procedure in which the main module – holding all cargo and any astronauts on board – separates from the rocket early.
Oleg Kononenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency blasted off to the orbiting outpost in December and are expected to greet their new crewmates early on Friday.
Duruing their mission McClain, Saint-Jacques, Hague and Koch are set to perform the first spacewalks of their careers.
This week in a lighter moment Hague offered an insight into the specifics of personal grooming aboard the ISS.
‘In space, we’ll use clippers attached to a vacuum device so that the hair particles don’t float around or get stuck in our vent systems,’ he wrote on Twitter.
The International Space Station — a rare area of cooperation between Moscow and Washington — has been orbiting the Earth at roughly 28,000 kilometres per hour since 1998.