Soyuz rocket: First astronauts to launch since October failure

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The trio will lift off inside their Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft at 6:31 a.m. EST from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Astronauts Serena Aunon-Chancellor, Russian Sergei Prokopyev and German Alexander Gerst are at the space station waiting for their arrival.

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.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed on Twitter that the crew were "safely in orbit" and thanked the USA and Russian teams "for their dedication to making this launch a success".

The Soyuz accident in October was the first aborted crew launch for the Russian space program since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts safely jettisoned after a launch pad explosion.

A Russian, an American and a Canadian astronaut will take off for the worldwide space station on Monday in the first manned launch of a Soyuz rocket since a crash in October.

On Oct. 11, a Soyuz rocket carrying two astronauts - one American and one Russian - malfunctioned, forcing the crew to abort the mission.

Monday's launch will be followed by a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft carrying cargo - including festive food for the holidays - to the ISS from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday.

ISS Astronauts
Astronauts Anne McClain Oleg Kononenko and David Saint Jacques

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

If all goes as planned, six hours later they will dock with the space station.

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

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. She later said she was caught off guard by her own reaction watching her colleague fulfil a lifelong dream.

As Saint-Jacques became just the ninth Canadian to head into space, people across the country connected with the Canadian Space Agency to watch Saint-Jacques' historic flight.

McClain, 39, served in Iraq and has represented the United States in women's rugby.

At a press conference following the successful docking, Rogozin announced March 1, 2019, as the date for the next manned launch to the ISS.

Next year, however, Russian Federation will see intense global competition.

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