March 23, 2019
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Russia's Soyuz MS-12 capsule lifts off for ISS from Kazakhstan

Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Mar 14 (efe-epa).- Russia's Soyuz MS-12 space capsule carrying three astronauts lifted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday en route to the International Space Station.

The launch of the Soyuz-FG rocket sending the manned capsule into space came at 1914 GMT, and the MS-12 carrying Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague - was scheduled to rendezvous with the ISS some 400 km (250 mi.) above the Earth in a little less than six hours.

For Ovchinin and Hague, this is their second attempt to travel to the ISS after the failed launch of Soyuz MS-10 on Oct. 11, 2018, a mishap from which both men emerged unhurt thanks to the rocket's automatic safety system, which ejected the recoverable crew capsule during the second minute of flight.

The accident, the first for the launch of a crewed Russian space capsule in 35 years, forced launch authorities to minutely review the Soyuz FG rocket systems, given that the failure occurred in the rocket, not in the capsule.

The government commission that investigated the mishap found that it occurred due to the collision of one of the side portions of the rocket's first stage with the second stage, an incident caused by a faulty sensor which did not activate the booster separation properly.

Before this new attempt to get into orbit, launch technicians had detected a "small deficiency" in the rocket that was "rectified," as Ovchinin said on Wednesday at a pre-flight press conference.

The official Russian TASS and RIA Novosti news agencies reported that the problem was linked to one of the control system sensors, which are made in Ukraine.

Attending the launch were the director of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, Dmitri Rogozin, and the head of Human Exploration and Operations for NASA, William H. Gerstenmaier.

According to the flight plan, the Soyuz MS-12 will dock with the orbital platform at 0107 GMT on Friday after making four orbits of the Earth.

With Ovchinin, Hague and Koch on board, the ISS will have six crewmembers and the new trio will be welcomed by station commander Oleg Kononenko, of Russia, US astronaut Anne McClain and Canada's David Saint-Jacques, who have been in space since December 2018.

The new crewmembers will spend 204 days on board the orbiting station, during which they will make several spacewalks and conduct numerous scientific experiments in biology, biotechnology, physics and earth sciences aboard the zero-gravity laboratory.

On the eve of the flight, Koch announced that she is scheduled to make a spacewalk with McClain, a milestone of sorts being the first extravehicular activity to be undertaken by two women.

The ISS, with its estimated cost of more than $150 billion, is a project being participated in by 16 nations. It consists of 14 permanently interlocked modules and orbits the Earth at a speed of more than 27,000 kph (almost 17,000 mph).

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