Soyuz MS-11 Blasts Off to ISS From Baikonur Cosmodrome

Three astronauts set to launch to ISS tomorrow

Kononenko, McClain and Saint-Jacques smiled and gave thumbs up to the cheering crowd including relatives as they ascended into the Soyuz capsule.

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, 48, agreed that the Soyuz spacecraft was "incredibly safe".

The trio was due to arrive at the station about six hours after liftoff.

The accident in October was the first aborted crew launch for the Russian space program since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts safely jettisoned after a launch pad explosion.

Two different spacefliers - NASA's Nick Hague and Russia's Aleksey Ovchinin - were supposed to have joined the crew on October 11, but their flight was aborted during the rocket's ascent, forcing them to return to Earth.

The Soyuz MS-11 flight lifted off from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan carrying Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Anne McClain and the Canadian Space Agency's David Saint-Jacques.

Three space travellers, including two astronauts on their first flight, are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) tomorrow for a six-and-a-half month mission.

The Soyuz is the only means of reaching the ISS since the United States retired the space shuttle in 2011.

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"Looking forward to having a full crew of 6 up here again, at least for a few weeks", German astronaut Alexander Gerst, the station's current commander, said in a tweet.

"Risk is part of our profession", the 54-year-old 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.

RFE also quoted McClain, 39, saying: "We feel very ready for it". The planned duration of the flight will be 194 days.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Oleg Kononenko of Russian space agency Roscosmos docked with the station at 11:33 p.m. (1723 GMT; 12:33 p.m. EST) Monday.

Afterward, investigators said they believed other Soyuz models may have been defective, but said additional checks had been introduced.

Veteran Kononenko said the crew would conduct a spacewalk on 11 December as part of an investigation into a mysterious hole that has caused an air leak on the ISS.

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