Two cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut took to the skies on a high-speed trip to the International Space Station on Wednesday, the first such launch aboard a Russian capsule since SpaceX’s first manned flight from US soil.
Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos and Kathleen Rubins of NASA were launched from the Russia-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 05:45 GMT on Wednesday.
A NASA television commentator said everything was fine, citing communications between Russian mission control and the crew, while Roscosmos said the capsule successfully passed into orbit.
Their journey will be the first manned flight to the ISS to last just over three hours before docking – a new accelerated profile that takes half the time of standard journeys to the orbital laboratory.
Only an unmanned Progress spacecraft has ever used this profile, requiring only two orbits before docking.
The launch is sandwiched between two SpaceX launches – the first manned space flights to the ISS under the aegis of NASA since 2011.
Prior to May 30, when US astronauts Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley arrived at the ISS, Russia and Baikonur enjoyed a lucrative monopoly on manned missions to the ISS.
The NASA duo returned home safe and sound on August 2, and a new SpaceX launch, this time in anticipation of a full semester mission to the space station, is slated for next month.
The emergence of private players SpaceX and Boeing – which is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program – has fueled discussions about a new “space race” between a number of countries.
But the men and women who fly to the space station have played down discussions of competition and instead focused on the ability of space travel to bring rival nations together for a common cause.
Speaking at a pre-launch press conference on Tuesday, Rubins did not directly refer to the SpaceX flight when asked how she felt on board in a new era of space flight.
“We don’t have the option of choosing our launch date or what happens on the station but I certainly feel incredibly lucky to be on the station when… these events happen,” the astronaut said. American, which celebrated its 42nd birthday on Wednesday.
The ISS, which has been continuously occupied since 2000, has been a rare example of cooperation between Moscow and Washington, but the project may be entering its final decade.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by GalacticGaming staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)