ISS-bound Soyuz-2.1a rocket with three Russian cosmonauts aboard lifts off from Baikonur
MOSCOW. March 18 (Interfax) - The Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle (LV) carrying the Soyuz MS-21 crewed spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS) blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Friday evening, according to the Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos' broadcast of the launch.
The rocket lifted off as planned from the cosmodrome's Launch Pad No. 31 at 6:55 p.m. For the first time since the ISS program was launched, the spacecraft is carrying three Russian professional cosmonauts - Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveyev and Sergei Korsakov.
This is Artemyev's third flight to the ISS and the debut mission for Matveyev and Korsakov.
"The launch was conducted from Baikonur at the set time, as planned," Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said on Telegram.
The Soyuz MS-21 separated from the upper stage of the Soyuz-2.1a LV at 7:04 p.m., as planned, and headed to the ISS.
The spacecraft will follow a so-called ultrafast two-orbit rendezvous path to the ISS, reaching the orbital outpost in approximately three hours and ten minutes. The Soyuz MS-21 will become the first spacecraft to dock at Russia's new docking port Prichal.
The docking is expected to take place at 10:05 p.m., while the transfer hatches will be opened at some point between 12:20 a.m. and 12:40 a.m. on March 19.
The three cosmonauts will spend 195 days on board the ISS. Soyuz MS-21 commander Artemyev said earlier that the crew would perform 6-7 spacewalks.
The crew currently working aboard the ISS consists of Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov (the station's commander) and Pyotr Dubrov, NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron, and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer.