Russian Soyuz (finally) lifts off for space station (+video)

A Russian Soyuz rocket, with three astronauts aboard, is due at the International Space Station Thursday. On Saturday, the SpaceX ‘Dragon’ will follow.

A Russian rocket launched three astronauts toward the International Space Station late Monday night (May 14), kicking off a two-day journey to the huge orbiting lab.

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin launched aboard aSoyuz spacecraftfrom Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome Monday at 11:01 p.m. EDT.

The Soyuz is slated to dock with thespace stationshortly after midnight EDT (0400 GMT) on Thursday (May 17). Once aboard, the three spaceflyers will bring the orbiting complex back to its full complement of six residents. Their fellow Expedition 31 crewmembers NASA’s Don Pettit, Dutchman Andre Kuipers and cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko have had the station to themselves since April 27.

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The launch was a long time coming for Acaba, Padalka and Revin. They were supposed to lift off on March 29, but their flight was delayed for six weeks after a botched pressure test rendered their original Soyuz capsule unusable and forced a new one into service. [Photos: New Expedition 31 Mission Begins]

A four-month stay

The three newcomers will live aboard the station for four months, eventually returning to Earth in mid-September, NASA officials said.

The veteran cosmonaut Padalka already has two long-duration stints aboard the space station under his belt, but the experience will be a new one for the other two astronauts aboard the Soyuz. Acaba visited the station for less than two weeks on his lone previous spaceflight, the shuttle Discovery’s STS-119 mission in 2009. And Monday’s launch marked Revin’s first trip to orbit.

Acaba said he’s looking forward to his extended stay aboard the station.

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Russian Soyuz (finally) lifts off for space station (+video)

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