Delayed ISS crew launches successfully

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft blasted off successfully for the International Space Station late last night, carrying one American and two Russian astronauts.

The launch – the first manned flight to the ISS since the retirement of the US shuttle fleet – was delayed from September over safety fears, following a failed unmanned launch in August.

Dan Burbank, Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin launched to the International Space Station at 11:14 pm EST last nigt from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

They’re scheduled to dock with their new home ISS at 11:33 pm tomorrow, joining Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum of NASA and flight engineers Satoshi Furukawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Sergei Volkov of Russia.

Fossum will hand over command of the station to the new crew within four days. He, Furukawa and Volkov – who have been on the ISS since June – will return in a week’s time.

NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers are scheduled to launch to the station December 21, bringing the number of crew members up to the full complement of six.

The new crew will see the arrival of the first commercial ships to resupply the space station. Expedition 30 is expected to greet the arrival of Dragon, a commercial resupply ship being built by SpaceX of Hawthorne, California.

Next year, Expedition 31 will welcome Cygnus, another commercial resupply ship being built by Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Virginia.