Two cosmonauts and one NASA astronaut took off on a high-speed voyage to the International Space Station on Wednesday. This was the first such launch on board a Russian capsule since SpaceX’s groundbreaking manned debut from US soil.
Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov from Roscosmos and Kathleen Rubins from NASA took off from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 0545 GMT on Wednesday.
A NASA television commentator said everything was normal, citing communications between Russian mission control and the crew, while Roscosmos said the capsule successfully went into orbit.
Your journey will be the first manned flight to the ISS to take just over three hours before docking – a new fast-track profile that takes half the time for standard trips to the orbital laboratory.
To date, only one Progress unmanned cargo spacecraft has used this profile, which requires only two orbits before docking.
The launch takes place between two SpaceX launches – the first manned space flights to the ISS under the auspices of NASA since 2011.
Before May 30, when US astronauts Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley came to the ISS, Russia and Baikonur had a lucrative monopoly on manned missions to the ISS.
The NASA duo returned safely on August 2nd and a new SpaceX launch, this time with a full-length biannual mission on the space station, is expected next month.
The advent of private gamers SpaceX and Boeing – part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program – has fueled discussion of a new “space race” between a number of countries.
But the men and women flying to the space station have downplayed talk of competition and instead focused on space travel’s ability to bring rival nations together for a common cause.
At a pre-launch press conference Tuesday, Rubins did not refer directly to the SpaceX flight when asked how she felt on board in a new era of space travel.
“We can’t choose our start date or what’s going to happen on the station, but I’m incredibly happy to be on the station when … these events take place,” said the American astronaut, who turned 42 on Wednesday celebrated.
The ISS, which has been permanently manned since 2000, was a rare example of Moscow-Washington collaboration, but the project could well enter its final decade.
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