Soyuz Launches Three Toward Space Station

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A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying one American and two Russians to the international space station blasted off Oct. 7 from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome.

The Soyuz carrying astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka was a new TMA-01M model featuring improved guidance, navigation, control and data processing systems, in addition to an improved cooling device for the electronics.

The three spacefliers were expected to dock at the station’s Poisk module Oct. 9, where they will join the orbiting outpost’s Expedition 25 crew — station commander Doug Wheelock and flight engineer Shannon Walker, both of NASA, and Russian flight engineer Fyodor Yurchikhin.

Kelly will assume command of the space station in November, when half of the station crew will journey back to Earth. This change will also mark the beginning of Expedition 26.

Skripochka is making his first spaceflight, but Kelly and Kaleri are both veteran spacefliers; Kelly flew on two space shuttle missions and Kaleri has traveled into space four times before.

During their stay aboard the station, the crew members are scheduled to oversee visits from two shuttles and two unmanned cargo ships — one from Europe and one from Japan. In November, Space Shuttle Discovery will fly to the station, followed by the February 2011 flight of Endeavour.

That flight is the last scheduled shuttle mission, though Congress passed a NASA authorization bill at the end of September that calls for one more flight before the fleet is retired.