Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An American, two Russians lift-off en route to space station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- An American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts left earth on Tuesday to begin a five month stay aboard the International Space Station.

Soyuz commander Oleg Novitskiy, NASA veteran space flyer Kevin Ford, and Evgeny Tarelkin will live and work 260 miles above earth aboard the orbiting outpost until March 2013.

The white and green Soyuz FG rocket lifted-off on time at 6:51:11 a.m. EDT, today from it's desert launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in western Kazakhstan.

The Russian rocket darted into the clear blue skies and toward the eastern horizon as it pushed it's cramped crew tucked inside the space craft on a chase to rendezvous with it's port-of-call.

A minute into the flight, the crew reported an alarm sounding in the cabin, however ground controllers reported everything was fine on board.

As the rocket soared higher, boosters and stages which pushed the craft higher began to fall away as it emptied it's fuel.

Nine minutes after launch, the Soyuz TMA-06M craft arrived on orbit, and began to deploy it's solar arrays for two days of circling the earth.

"Congratulations!," Russian mission control in Moscow radioed the crew.

Docking of the Soyuz TMA-06M craft to the station's Poisk module is planned for Thursday at 8:35 a.m.

Novitskiy, Ford and Tarelkin will join the station's commander and NASA astronaut Suni Williams, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko who have been living in space since July.

The crew's arrival at their new home will come during a busy week ahead aboard the station.

"We have a lot of visiting vehicles that will come and go," Ford said recently.

The SpaceX commercial cargo craft Dragon will undock and depart on Sunday, filled with recent science experiments and trash, for it's return to earth eight hours later.

Three days later, the crew of six will welcome an unmanned Russian cargo craft loaded with over two tons of supplies and hardware.

The Progress M-17M craft is set to lift-off from Baikonur next Wednesday, October 31 at 3:41 a.m., beginning it's brief chase by docking just six hours later.

Williams and Hoshide will then begin a six hour spacewalk the next day to repair a leaking amnonia line on the Port 6 Truss segment's radiators.

(Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace, science & technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @SpaceFlight360.)

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