Russian Federation launches astronauts to ISS after botched attempt

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Russia's space agency Roscosmos said Monday the first manned Soyuz flight to the International Space Station since a failed launch in October was proceeding according to plan.

NASA's Anne McClain, the Canadian Space Agency's David Saint-Jacques and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko reached orbit minutes after the smooth launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:31 a.m. PT.

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying three astronauts has successfully docked with the International Space Station following a launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan six hours earlier.

It was the first manned mission for Russia since October, when NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin were forced to make an emergency landing shortly after launch following a rocket malfunction.

McClain, Saint-Jacques and Kononenko will spend more than six months at the space station doing research and experiments in biology, Earth science, physical sciences and technology.

This was the first time people rode on one of the Russian rockets since October 11, when two and a half minutes after takeoff, one of the Soyuz MS-10's four boosters broke off, sending the aircraft spinning out of control.

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At a press conference the night before the launch, crew commander Kononenko said the astronauts "absolutely" trusted teams preparing for the flight.

"We are psychologically and technically prepared for blast-off and any situation which, God forbid, may occur on board".

Kononenko, McClain and Saint-Jacques smiled and gave thumbs up to the cheering crowd including relatives as they ascended into the Soyuz capsule. "We feel very ready for it", she said.

The mission marked the 100th orbital launch of 2018, and the first time in 28 years that humanity reached that number of launches within a calendar year. It turned out the problem was in an improperly assembled booster, which damaged the craft when it detached from the second stage.

The new arrivals to the ISS will join the European Space Agency's Alexander Gerst, NASA's Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Russia's Sergey Prokopyev, who have been in orbit since June but are due to fly back to Earth on December 20. The pair landed safely about 12 miles east of the city of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

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