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Russian, Two Americans Board International Space Station After Launch

  • RFE/RL

A Soyuz rocket blasts off to the International Space Station in April.

A Russian rocket carrying two U.S. astronauts and a cosmonaut who blasted off on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan have boarded the International Space Station.

Live footage showed the Soyuz MS-06 rocket with Aleksandr Misurkin of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, NASA first-time astronaut Mark Vande Hei, and his veteran colleague Joe Acaba blasting off from Baikonur at 3:17 a.m. local time on September 13.

The space capsule entered orbit nine minutes after the launch, officials said. It docked with the orbiting laboratory nearly six hours later, NASA TV showed.

The astronauts plan to be on board the station for a 5 1/2-month mission.

The launch marked the first time since June 2010 that two U.S. astronauts have blasted off together from Baikonur on a mission to the space station.

NASA stopped its own manned launches in 2011 but has been increasing the number of its crew members aboard the orbital lab since 2016 when Russia started to cut back on its crew numbers.

Acaba, 50, has spent nearly 138 days in space over two missions. Puerto Rican by heritage, he said before the launch that he would be taking some "musica Latina" on board to lift his crewmates' spirits.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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