Soyuz rocket: First astronauts to launch since October failure

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American, Canadian and Russian astronauts launched to the International Space Station in a Soyuz rocket Monday morning, weeks after the same model failed shortly after take-off.

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques boarded the International Space Station Monday afternoon, declaring himself "astounded" by the journey and excited for the discoveries ahead of him.

The previous launch - involving NASA's Nick Hague and Russia's Aleksey Ovchinin - had to be aborted after the first stage of the rocket failed to separate as planned.

Three astronauts blasted off for the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

On Monday, a Soyuz rocket carrying three astronauts from Russia, the USA and Canada departed from the Baikonur site in Kazakhstan run by Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.

A few minutes after their rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Russian space agency Roscomos announced that the capsule was "successfully launched into orbit".

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted his thanks to his Russian counterpart Dmitry Rogozin and to NASA and Roscosmos teams "for their dedication to making this launch a success".

They will head to the ISS after a Soyuz rocket carrying Russia's Aleksey Ovchinin and United States astronaut Nick Hague failed on October 11 just minutes after blast-off.

The event was the first failed manned launch for the Russian space program since 1983 when a Soyuz rocket exploded on the launch pad.

McClain Saint-Jacques and Kononenkoof before launch
McClain Saint-Jacques and Kononenkoof before

The mission to the ISS - the 58th using a Soyuz - may be one of the last taken with the rocket that has served as the only way to get to the ISS since NASA retired the Space Shuttle in 2011.

The launch appeared to go smoothly from Kazakhstan at the precise liftoff time of 6:31 a.m. eastern time.

"Risk is part of our profession", the 54-year-old said at a press conference.

European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, NASA's Serena Aunon-Chancellor and Sergei Prokopyev of Roscosmos were set to greet the trio on arrival at the ISS.

Monday marks two important milestones for the Soyuz rocket. "We are psychologically and technically prepared for blast-off and any situation which, may occur on board".

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 arrival of the three astronauts restores the space station's crew to six as they join Serena Aunon-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos, who are scheduled to remain aboard until December 20.

During their mission, members of the crew are scheduled to embark on a spacewalk to further probe a mysterious hole that caused a loss of air pressure on-board the ISS in August.

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