Soyuz MS-11 Blasts Off to ISS From Baikonur Cosmodrome

James Marshall
December 4, 2018

This is the first manned Russian rocket launch since a dramatic Soyuz failure on October 11.

The Soyuz MS-11 carried Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, Canadian David Saint-Jacques and NASA's Anne McClain from Earth to dock with the ISS later on Monday.

Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev, who is now onboard the space station, are also scheduled for a spacewalk to examine the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft from the outside.

The journey to the orbital lab takes six hours, with docking expected at 5.36pm GMT.

A Soyuz-FG rocket carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos' Alexei Ovchinin failed two minutes into its flight on October 11, activating an automatic rescue system that sent their capsule into a steep ride 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.

It was particularly troubling considering the fact that the Soyuz is now the only spacecraft and rocket that can take humans to space these days, since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.

Kononenko, McClain and Saint-Jacques smiled and gave thumbs up to the cheering crowd including relatives as they ascended into the Soyuz capsule on Monday morning.

The evening before the launch, crew commander Oleg Kononenko said the astronauts "absolutely" had trust in the flight preparations.

"We are psychologically and technically prepared for blast-off and any situation which, God forbid, may occur on board".

Anne McClain, a 39-year-old former military pilot, said the crew looked forward to going up.

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, 48, agreed that the Soyuz spacecraft was "incredibly safe".

A Russian investigation attributed the failure to a sensor that was damaged during the rocket's final 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 trip to space - which had originally been scheduled for December 20 - had to be moved up to ensure that the ISS wouldn't be abandoned for the first time since crew arrived there on November 2, 2000.

McClain served in Iraq and has represented the United States in women's rugby.

But comments by the combative chief of the Russian space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, have raised eyebrows.

The launch will be a test for Russia's space industry, which has suffered several high-profile crashes in recent years but remains the only reliable way to deliver crew members to the orbiting station.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

Discuss This Article

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER