Moscow (AFP) Dec 17, 2010
A Russian Soyuz space rocket carrying three astronauts on Friday docked with the International Space Station (ISS), Russia's mission control said.
"The automatic docking passed off successfully," said spokesman Valery Lyndin, quoted by the Russian news agency Interfax.
The Soyuz TMA-20 rocket, with a Russian, an Italian and an American aboard, blasted off Wednesday from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The three-member crew is due to open the airlock at 2300 GMT to enter the ISS where they will join NASA's Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka aboard the ISS.
They are due to carry out a mission lasting nearly six months and are scheduled to return from the ISS in May next year.
earlier related report
A Proton-M rocket failed to reach its initial orbit during the December 5 launch, causing it to dump the three high-tech Glonass-M satellites near the Hawaii Islands.
It marked an embarrassing setback to Russia's much-publicised attempts to introduce a global rival to the US Global Positioning System (GPS), a programme that was first begun by the Soviet Union in 1976.
The last three satellites would have enabled Russia to fully deploy the system next year, meeting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's commitment to equip all new cars sold in Russia with Glonass readers in 2012.
Space officials said the calculation mistake was easy to correct, and that they were relieved that there was nothing wrong with the actual rocket itself.
"We have no questions regarding the Proton," investigating commission chief Gennady Raikunov told the Interfax news agency. "Its launches could be resumed."
Raikunov said the fault lay with the Energia Rocket And Space Corporation, which designed the carrier.
He said that the company failed to account for the fact that the updated version of the rocket had bigger fuel tanks, which weighed more when filled to the top.
"This increased the payload weight and the rocket did not have the energy to deliver the satellites to orbit," the space official said.
Energia officials could not be reached for comment Friday.
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New ISS Crew Members Set For Friday Arrival
Houston TX (SPX) Dec 17, 2010
Flight Engineers Dmitry Kondratyev, Catherine Coleman and Paolo Nespoli are on their way to the International Space Station after a successful launch aboard their Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazkhstan. They are set to dock to the station's Rassvet mini-research module Friday at 3:12 p.m. EST. Communications between the Mission Control Center in Moscow ... read more
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