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A Russian cosmonaut and two US astronauts arrived Friday at the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, five months after the failed launch of a rocket carrying two of the passengers.
NASA astronaut Nick Hague and his Russian colleague Alexey Ovchinin, who both survived a dramatically aborted Soyuz launch last year, were joined on the smoothly-executed trip by NASA astronaut Christina Koch.
The rocket lifted off without incident from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and docked at the ISS less than six hours later, more than 400 kilometers (249 miles) above the Earth at 01:01 GMT (06:31 IST), a few minutes ahead of schedule.
During a live broadcast via high-definition cameras aboard the ISS, the mission commander Ovchinin reported that the mooring mechanism was engaged. A NASA commentator then confirmed the “capture.”
The liftoff was closely watched after the two men’s space journey was cut short in October when a technical problem with their Soyuz rocket triggered a launch abort two minutes into the flight. Both men escaped unharmed.
It was the first such accident in Russia’s post-Soviet history and a major setback for its once proud space industry. Speaking to reporters ahead of their six-month mission, Ovchinin said some faulty components in the launch vehicle had been found and replaced this week.
The International Space Station—a rare area of cooperation between Moscow and Washington—has been orbiting the Earth at roughly 28,000 kilometres per hour since 1998.