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Expedition 44 crew blasts off, headed to International Space Station

The Expedition 44 crew members will remain aboard ISS until December.

By Brooks Hays
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A view of the rocket as it leaves Earth. Photo by NASA TV
A view of the rocket as it leaves Earth. Photo by NASA TV

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan, July 22 (UPI) -- The Soyuz rocket safely blasted off from its launch pad at Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome, located in Kazakhstan. The spacecraft, which is now in flight, will take three new crew members to the International Space Station.

Blastoff happened just on time at 5:02 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, 3:02 a.m. Baikonur time on Thursday morning.

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The rocket will deliver the Expedition 44 crew, which is headed by cosmonaut and Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko. He is joined by NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Kimiya Yui.

Once arrived, the three new members will join astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko -- the two members of the One-Year mission -- as well as cosmonaut and Expedition 44 Commander Gennady Padalka.

Russia's Soyuz-FG rocket, which consists of three stages, boosted the spacecraft 124 miles into Earth's upper atmosphere before separating from the astronaut-carrying capsule. From there, the craft's boosters took over. They will propel it on its path through space.

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Only nine minutes elapsed between takeoff and separation. After separating, the craft began orbiting Earth before being slung toward ISS.


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"A very smooth ride to orbit following launch from Baikonur," NASA TV's narrator exclaimed.

After the six-hour trip, the Soyuz spacecraft will dock on the space station's Rassvet mini-research module. The crew members will remain aboard ISS until December.

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