Russia launched a Soyuz Rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday carrying three astronauts bound to the International Space Station (ISS). The successful launch followed a two-month delay in schedule due to problems with other launches.
The Soyuz TMA-17M lifted off carrying Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, Japanese flight engineer Kimiya Yui and NASA's physician astronaut Kjell Lindgren. At 10:45 p.m. EDT, the vehicle docked to the ISS over the ocean near Ecuador.
Kononenko has been on two earlier space missions to the laboratory in low-Earth orbit but the flight was the first time for Yui and Lindgren to go into space. The group will join Expedition 44's commander Gennady Padalka and flight engineer Mikhail Kornienko, both from Roscosmos, and flight engineer Scott Kelly of NASA, who have been onboard the space station since March.
The manned mission was two months late because of the April 28 problem that involved a slightly different booster that carried an ISS-bound cargo ship. The three crews were initially set for launch scheduled on May 26 but it was affected by the April 28 malfunction involving the Progress M-27M/59P cargo ship as the Russian federal space agency delayed the return of three station fliers and the launch of their replacements pending results of investigation.
The malfunction occurred in the upper stage of the booster that sent the cargo ship into the wrong orbit. Although flight controllers tried to regain control, the attempt was unsuccessful sending the vehicle plummeting into the atmosphere, where it burned up.
Details of the investigation were not revealed nor did the Russians provide explanation on what exactly happened albeit they claimed to have identified the most probable issue and that it would not have effect on the manned flight. The crew who boarded the flight concurred.
"We are very grateful for the thoroughness that our colleagues here in Russia have spent (looking) at the booster and the mishap," Lindgren said. "We are very confident in the analysis our own folks back at NASA have conducted, and we're very confident in the rocket."
Just like with all flights bound to the ISS, the launch was scheduled to coincide with the time the rotation of the Earth carried the pad into the plane of the station's orbit. At the time of the liftoff, the ISS was about 860 miles ahead of the rocket to the northeast, 250 miles up and moving away at over 17,000 mph.