Three Astronauts Launch to the International Space Station
27 March 2014

Expedition 39 crew, bid farewell, before launching toward the International Space Station.

Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

On 25 March 2014, a Soyuz spacecraft launched toward the International Space Station (ISS), from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying onboard three astronauts, the Expedition 39 crew. The space trio consists of Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov (commander) and flight engineers Oleg Artemyev (Latvia) and Steve Swanson (United States). The ISS is the largest spacecraft ever flown into space. It orbits Earth at an altitude of about 350 km.

The Soyuz spacecraft was expected to reach the ISS within about six hours of launch, after only four Earth orbits. This orbital shortcut replaced the usual two-day flight, comprising 34 orbits, to the ISS, mostly followed by Soyuz crews over the past 15 years of ISS operation. Only four previous crews performed the four-orbit procedure, to reach the ISS, while ground flight controllers always keep the option to change to the two-day procedure, when necessary. 

Through the flight, Skvortsov and his colleagues executed the first two rocket-firings on schedule, but the third firing failed. As the flight procedure interrupted, Russian ground controllers reverted to the traditional two-day sequence, delaying the rendezvous with the ISS to the late evening of Thursday, 27 March.

International Space Station 

Aymen Mohamed Ibrahem
Senior Astronomy Specialist

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