Soyuz Successfully Launched Into Orbit, Says Russia’s Space Agency

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The Soyuz was "successfully launched into orbit," says Russia's space agency Roscosmos.

Baikonur:

Russia's space agency Roscosmos said Monday the first manned Soyuz flight to the International Space Station since a failed launch in October was proceeding according to plan.

The Soyuz was "successfully launched into orbit," Roscosmos wrote on Twitter.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency launched for a six-and-a-half month mission on the International Space Station at the expected time of 1131 GMT.

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The launch was the first for the Soviet-era Soyuz since October 11, when a rocket carrying Russia's Aleksey Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague failed just minutes after blast-off, forcing the pair to make an emergency landing.

They escaped unharmed but the failed launch — the first such incident in Russia's post-Soviet history — raised concerns about the state of the Soyuz programme.

The Soyuz is the only means of reaching the ISS since the United States retired the space shuttle in 2011.

Kononenko, McClain and Saint-Jacques were all smiles as footage broadcast by NASA TV showed them preparing to enter the Soyuz capsule before launch.

At a press conference on the eve of the launch, crew commander Kononenko said the astronauts "absolutely" trusted teams preparing for the flight.

"Risk is part of our profession," the 54-year-old said. "We are psychologically and technically prepared for blast-off and any situation which, God forbid, may occur on board."

The ISS space laboratory has been orbiting the Earth at roughly 28,000 kilometres per hour since 1998.

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