Monday, April 04, 2011

Russian Soyuz crew lifts-off bound for the space station

Russia's Soyuz pre-dawn lift-off with a crew of three. (Roscosmos)

A Soyuz rocket with two Russians and one American lifted-off today for the International Space Station from the same launch pad which sent the first human into space fifty years ago this week.

The Soyuz TMA21 spacecraft, nicknamed Yuri Gagarin in honor of the first human to sail upon the ocean of space, lifted-off with cosmonauts Aleksander Samokutyaev, Andrei Borisenko and NASA astronaut Ronald Garan inside at 6:18:20 p.m. EDT(4:18 a.m. local time Tuesday).

Riding a top a Soyuz FG rocket powered by
one RD-118 center engine and four small boosters, the craft soared from the desert of western Baikonur.

The crew of three departed earth at an exact moment which favored a low fuel method to catch up with and rendezvous with the orbiting lab on Wednesday.

At launch, the space station soared 222 miles over the southern Atlantic Ocean, northeast of the Falkland Islands.

The 162-foot grey rocket's liquid-fueled engine assisted by the four RD-117 liquid-fueled engines on attached side boosters, provided 1,143,378 pounds of thrust during the first two minutes of ascent.

Nine minutes into the crew's flight, the third stage separated from the Soyuz TMA 21, and settled into an orbit of 143 x 118 miles.

A minute later, the Soyuz commander Samokutyaev began flipping switches to deploy a high gain antenna and twin solar arrays.

Two hours prior to lift-off the crew boarded their Soyuz craft dressed in their Russian launch and entry pressurized suits.

As they climbed the ladder to the Soyuz craft, they turned and waved to the ground team.

The Gagarin craft will dock to the space station on Wednesday at 7:18 p.m.

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