Video: Joint US-Russian crew reaches space station

Arrival of Soyuz capsule sees outpost staffed by full six-member crew

Three new crew members step aboard the International Space Station from a Russian Soyuz craft after a Kazakhstan blast-off


A Russian Soyuz rocket that blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan yesterday has delivered three new crew members to the International Space Station.

Less than six hours after liftoff, the Soyuz rocket and capsule reached the station, which orbits about 250 miles above Earth, carrying veteran Russian commander Oleg Kotov and rookies Sergey Ryazanskiy of Russia and Michael Hopkins of the United States reached the outpost.

Only two other crews have made the journey as quickly. Previous Soyuz capsules took two days of orbital manoeuvres to reach the station.

The arrival of Kotov, Ryazanskiy and Hopkins returns the station to its full, six-member live-aboard crew.

Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, Nasa astronaut Karen Nyberg and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano have been running the station on their own since September 10th.

The skeleton crew was to have overseen the arrival of a commercial cargo ship on a test flight to the station this week.

But a software problem left the unmanned Cygnus freighter unable to receive navigation data properly from the station, delaying its arrival until no earlier than Saturday to avoid conflicting with the Soyuz’s berthing.

Typically, at least 48 hours are needed between spacecraft dockings.

The cargo ship, built and launched by Orbital Sciences with backing from Nasa, blasted off aboard an Antares rocket on September 18th from a new launch pad on the Virginia coast.

Hopkins and Ryazanskiy are making their first flights. Kotov, who will take over command of the station when Yurchikhin leaves in November, has made two previous long-duration missions on the station.

During their five-month stay, Kotov and Ryazanskiy are scheduled to make three spacewalks, the first of which will include taking an unlighted Olympic torch outside the airlock to promote the Sochi Olympic Games in Russia, which open in February 2014.