Canadian David Saint-Jacques reaches the International Space Station

Cristina Cross
December 7, 2018

Three astronauts - including two radio amateurs - have docked at the International Space Station (ISS) on the first crewed Soyuz vehicle launch since a dramatic failure in October. The hatch to the Russian ship ferrying the crewmembers opened at 2:37 pm.

In the Integration Facility at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 58 crew members Anne McClain of NASA (left), Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos (center) and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency (right) pose for pictures November 29 in front of the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft during a final vehicle fit check.

But the rocket lifted off from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan on a tongue of flame and flew into space without a hitch, live video of the launch showed.

The three crew members will spend more than six months conducting hundreds of science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development, providing the foundation for continuing human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars.

On board were David Saint-Jacques, KG5FYI, a Canadian engineer, astrophysicist, and medical doctor; space veteran Oleg Kononenko, RN3DX, of Russian Federation, and Anne McClain, of the US.

Saint-Jacques has spent years training for the six-month mission, which was originally scheduled for December 20 but was moved up after the aborted Soyuz launch.

The ISS orbits around the Earth at 28,000 kilometers per hour since 1998.

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A few weeks after the accident, the commission of inquiry concluded that there was a "deformation" of a sensor during the assembly of the Soyuz rocket in Baikonur.

On the other hand, David Saint-Jacques defended that the space rocket is "very safe". The shield will be brought into the station and later returned to earth, Russian space officials said.

The two-man Soyuz MS-10 crew, NASA's Nick Hague and Roscosmos's Aleksey Ovchinin, did not make it to ISS that day, but they will get a second chance in February on Soyuz MS-12.

This is the first manned Soyuz launch since the October 11 failure that caused Aleksey Ovchinin and Nick Hague to make an emergency landing minutes after liftoff.

Of the trio set to reach the ISS six hours after blast-off, both Saint-Jacques and McClain are flying for the first time.

The last Canadian astronaut to visit the space station was Chris Hadfield, who was on a five-month mission that ended in May 2013.

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