Soyuz docks with Intl Space Station, sends 3 new crewmembers aboard

© Maksim Blinov
A Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked with the ISS six hours after launch. It sent NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and Russian Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin to the International Space Station.

The spacecraft lifted off from Baikonur at 9:26pm GMT and several minutes into the flight successfully separated from all of the booster rocket stages, setting a course towards the ISS. It is scheduled to dock at the station at around 3:11am GMT, less than six hours after the launch.

The docking is almost marking the 50th anniversary of the first ever successful space-link between two spacecraft in orbit.

The Saturday’s takeoff is also marking the 20th and last launch of the Soyuz TMA-M capsule, which is to be replaced by an updated version of the spacecraft – Soyuz MS – the final planned upgrade of the fourth generation of the spacecraft.

“According to plan we were supposed to fly onboard the new Soyuz MS-01, but for reasons beyond our control its first launch was moved to the 'right',” said Skripochka, who was also part of the first Soyuz TMA-01M crew.

After arriving at the ISS, the team will join Expedition 47 NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Tim Peake. The trio will spend 177 days on the ISS conducting scientific experiments.