Russia Soyuz spacecraft docks with International Space Station
Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft has docked successfully at the International Space Station (ISS).
The rocket, carrying a US astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts, blasted off from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday.
It was the first manned launch since an unmanned cargo rocket crashed shortly after launch in August.
The Soyuz is the only means of reaching the ISS after the US ended its shuttle programme earlier this year.
A spokesman for the Russian space agency said the Soyuz had docked with the ISS at 09:24 Moscow time (05:24 GMT).
“Everything went ahead normally,” he said.
The crew – American Dan Burbank and Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin – will shortly open the hatch and join the current crew of the ISS.
American Mike Fossum, Japan’s Satoshi Furukawa and Russia’s Sergei Volkov are due to return to Earth in December, while the new crew members will stay until March.
The BBC’s Daniel Sandford in Moscow says the launch and progress of the Soyuz, designed in the 1960s, was a nervous moment for both Nasa and the Russians, after the failure of the Progress cargo rocket in August.
That crash, which Moscow said was an “isolated” glitch caused by a fuel pipe blockage – led to the human space flight programme being suspended.
But with no other way of reaching the ISS, it was doubly important for the programme to succeed, says our correspondent.
A spokesman for US space agency Nasa said the Russian team had done a “tremendous job getting the launch and the docking ready”.
Nasa ended its 30-year shuttle programme in July. The 16 nations investing in the $100bn International Space Station now rely solely on Russia to ferry crews.
A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying an American and two Russians has blasted off successfully from Kazakhstan on a mission to the International Space Station.
It is the first flight of a Nasa astronaut in the post-space shuttle areas and is a welcome success for the Russian space programme. Last week a Russian Mars probe failed to leave Earth’s orbit – it is expected to burn up in the atmosphere by 26 November unless it can be reactivated. In August an unmanned Progress cargo ship bound for the space station crashed – the rocket that failed was the same kind used by the Soyuz.
The Soyuz TMA-22 lifted off as scheduled at 8.14am local time (4.14am GMT) on Monday from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It is carrying Nasa astronaut Dan Burbank and Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, and is due to dock at the station Wednesday.
The launch had been postponed for two months due to the Progress failure causing concerns about crew safety.
Monday’s launch followed a rigorous inspection of all Soyuz rockets and a successful launch of a Progress ship last month. Technicians found that the earlier Soyuz probably failed due to contamination in fuel lines.
Analysts have said that despite Russia remaining the only nation capable of regular manned space launches, the country’s programme is struggling, reliant on obsolete technology propped up by equipment bought from other countries. The Phobos-Grunt probe that failed on 8 November shortly after launch would have been its first mission beyond Earth’s orbit in more than 20 years.