Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques set to launch into space

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques lifts off on Russian rocket to International Space Station

Payette, who completed missions to the space station in 1999 and 2009, says the most risky moments come immediately following the launch as the rocket passes through several "critical zones" on its way into space.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Oleg Kononenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos lifted off as scheduled at 5:31 p.m. (1131 GMT; 6:31 a.m. EST) Monday from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The crew was reporting that all was going well in the critical initial minutes after liftoff and were safely in orbit.

October's aborted trip saw two astronauts forced to make an emergency landing just minutes after take off.

They will start from the same launchpad that Yuri Gagarin did when he became the first man in space in 1961.

Speaking before the trip on Sunday, crew commander Oleg Kononenko affirmed his crew "absolutely" trusted the flight's preparation.

Reports say a Russian Orthodox priest blessed their rocket before its flight on Monday, as per tradition.

"We are psychologically and technically prepared for blastoff and any situation which, God forbid, may occur on board", the 54-year-old said.

Canada's Saint-Jacques, 48, described the Soyuz spacecraft as "incredibly safe".

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques set to launch into space
Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques set to launch into space

It will be the first flight for both McClain and Saint-Jacques and the fourth for Kononenko.

The Soviet-designed Soyuz rocket is now the world's only lifeline to the ISS.

The last Canadian astronaut to visit the space station was Chris Hadfield, who was on a five-month mission that ended in May 2013.

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, is now the only organisation transporting astronauts to the ISS after Nasa ended its space shuttle flights in 2011.

McClain served in Iraq and has represented the United States at women's rugby.

Russia-US cooperation in space has so far remained one of the few areas not affected by a crisis in ties between the former Cold War enemies.

A Russian Soyuz rocket rises from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying three spacefliers into orbit.

He recently joked Russian Federation would send a mission to the Moon to "verify" whether or not NASA lunar landings ever took place.

The launch will be a test for Russia's space industry, which has suffered several high-profile crashes in recent years but remains the only reliable way to deliver crew members to the orbiting station.

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