Russia launches three astronauts to International Space Station
Russia launched a rocket carrying three astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) early Monday, in a mission critical to keeping the station manned and to the country's reputation as a space power, dpa reported.
A Soyuz-FG rocket with American Dan Burbank and Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin aboard blasted off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur space centre in what appeared to be a successful launch.
They were to join the ISS' current crew of American Mike Fossum, Japan's Satoshi Furukawa and Russia's Sergei Volkov.
Russia's space programme has been struggling to recover from a series of worrying mishaps including the Wednesday failure of a Mars probe, which also used a Soyuz rocket.
An August 14 crash of a Soyuz carrying an unmanned freighter with supplies for the ISS forced a two-month delay on manned flights to the station, so Russian technicians could perform reliability checks on the country's Soyuz rocket fleet.
With the July retirement of the US space shuttle, Russia's Soyuz is the only means of delivering new crew to the ISS.