A three-man U. S.and Russian crew successfully lifted off for the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan late Monday.
The Soyuz capsule with Joseph Acaba, of NASA, and cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin departed the Central Asian launch complex at 11:01 p.m., EDT, safely reaching orbit nine minutes later.
Following a series of altitude raising maneuvers, the Soyuz capsule will attempt to dock with the 240 mile high space station on Thursday at 12:39 a.m., EDT.
“Everything is okay on board,” Padalka, the Soyuz commander, radioed Mission Control Moscow as the three-stage Soyuz booster neared orbit late Monday. “We feel good.”
The three men will be greeted by the station’s Expedition 31 commander Oleg Kononenko, of Russia, and flight engineers Don Pettit, of NASA, and Andre Kuipers, of the European Space Agency.
The newcomers will return the space station to six crew operations for the first time since April 27, when three U.S.and Russian fliers returned to Earth after 5.5 months on the orbiting science laboratory.
One of the reconstituted crew’s initial tasks will be the berthing of the first U. S. commercial resupply mission.
The SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon mission is scheduled to lift off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on Saturday at 4:55 a.m., EDT.
After a series of communications and navigation system check outs, the unpiloted Dragon will attempt to rendezvous on May 22, maneuvering close enough for Pettit and Kuipers to grapple the freighter using the station’s Canadarm2. Once Dragon is in the grip of the 58-foot-long robot arm, Pettit and Kuipers will berth the capsule to the station’s U. S. segment for a two week stay.
Acaba is one of NASA’s educator astronauts, a former Florida high and middle school math and science instructor and U. S. Peace Corps volunteer. He participated in a 2009 shuttle space station assembly mission.
Padalka has trained to become the first person to command the space station three times. Prior to station flights in 2009 and 2004, Padalka served as the commander of Russia’s former Mir space station.
Revin, who is flying for the first time, is a flight test engineer from NPO Energia.
The three men expect to remain aboard the station for four months. They will serve as the operators of and test subjects in more than 200 science experiments and engineering evaluations.