International Space Station greets Soyuz’s new arrivals

By Irene Klotz, Reuters

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida–A Russian Soyuz capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Friday with a trio of astronauts, bringing the orbital outpost back to full staffing after a failed cargo ship launch in August disrupted flight schedules.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA’s Don Pettit and the European Space Agency’s Andre Kuipers blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday for the space station, a US$100 billion research complex that orbits about 240 miles (385 km) above Earth. Their two-day trip in the cramped capsule ended at 10:19 a.m. EST (1519 GMT) when the Soyuz slipped into the Earth-facing docking port on the station’s Rassvet module. The docking occurred about three hours after another botched Russian launch, the fifth this year. An unmanned Soyuz-2 rocket carrying a Russian communications satellite lifted off from Russia’s Plesetsk space center at 7:08 a.m. EST (1208 GMT), but failed to reach orbit after a third-stage engine failure. The rocket and its payload crashed in Siberia, according to the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. There was no immediate word about whether the Soyuz-2 failure will impact upcoming launches, including a Soyuz flight slated for Wednesday to put six Globalstar mobile communications satellites into orbit.