Soyuz MS-11 Blasts Off to ISS From Baikonur Cosmodrome

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques lifts off on Russian rocket to International Space Station

A Russian-made Soyuz rocket blasted a three-man crew into orbit on Monday, beginning the first manned voyage to the International Space Station since a mission in October was aborted in midair because of a rocket malfunction.

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

The October 11 launch saw two crew members, Aleksey Ovchinin and Nick Hague, escape certain death in a massive high-altitude blast, as their capsule was pulled away from the Soyuz-FG rocket by the time-proven Russian emergency rescue system SAS, before it landed back in Kazakhstan.

Soyuz MS-11 Blasts Off to ISS From Baikonur Cosmodrome
Soyuz MS-11 Blasts Off to ISS From Baikonur Cosmodrome

Russian Federation said last month, the October launch had failed because of a sensor that was damaged during assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome but insisted the spacecraft remained reliable.

Russian Federation said last month the launch of the Soyuz rocket failed because of a sensor that was damaged during assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome, but officials insisted the spacecraft remains reliable.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Oleg Kononenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos lifted off as scheduled at 5:31 p.m. (1131 GMT; 6:31 a.m. EST) Monday from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

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"Risk is part of our profession", crew commander Oleg Kononenko told a news conference at Baikonur, adding they "absolutely" trusted teams preparing them for the flight.

Saint-Jacques has spent years training for the six-month mission, which was originally scheduled for December 20 but was moved up after the aborted Soyuz launch.

"We are psychologically and technically prepared for blast-off and any situation which, God forbid, may occur on board". Gary Jordan, a launch commentator for NASA, hailed a "textbook launch and insertion into orbit".

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Afterward, investigators said they believed other Soyuz models may have been defective, but said additional checks had been introduced.

The Soyuz is the only means of reaching the ISS since the United States retired the space shuttle in 2011.

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

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It will be the first flight for both McClain and Saint-Jacques and the fourth for Kononenko.

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