NASA, Russia launch Soyuz rocket to ISS just weeks after failure

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This is the first manned Russian rocket launch since a dramatic Soyuz failure on October 11.

The hatch of the capsule carrying NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Oleg Kononenko of Russian space agency Roscosmos was opened while the station was flying over the southern coast of Yemen. You can see more awesome launch photos in our full gallery. The families of the crew, other astronauts and space officials from several nations breathed a sigh of relief after observing the flawless launch.

A Soyuz-FG rocket carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos' Alexei Ovchinin failed two minutes into its flight on October 11, activating an automatic rescue system that sent their capsule into a steep ride back to Earth.

But today, everything went precisely according to plan, with an on-schedule and anomaly-free liftoff at 6:31 a.m. EST (1131 GMT).

Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev, who is now onboard the space station, are also scheduled for a spacewalk to examine the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft from the outside.

"Risk is part of our profession", the 54-year-old said at a press conference.

The launch of the rocket will be observed by the head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of NASA's manned flights department, William Gerstenmayer, and the governor-general of Canada, Julie Peyette (former astronaut of the Canadian Space Agency).

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

That triggered the Soyuz spacecraft's launch abort system, sending the spacecraft away from the damaged rocket.

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

RFE also quoted McClain, 39, saying: "We feel very ready for it".

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.

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

October's accident had highlighted the "smart design of the Soyuz and the incredible work that the search and rescue people here on the ground are ready to do every launch", he said.

Ahead of Monday's launch a Russian Orthodox priest blessed the spaceship on its launchpad, in accordance with tradition, while the crew spoke calmly of the dangers involved.

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

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.

Russian Federation said last month the October launch had failed because of a sensor damaged during assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome, but insisted the spacecraft remained reliable.

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