Soyuz rocket lifts off with new crew for ISS

Russia-US cooperation in space has so far remained one of the few areas not affected by a crisis in ties between the former Cold War enemies

Saint-Jacques joked that he had received so much training ahead of the flight "that I felt at the end that I could build a Soyuz in my backyard".

"We have confirmation of the spacecraft separation; Soyuz capsule and crew safely in orbit", NASA TV said online in its blow-by-blow commentary of the take-off.

They escaped unharmed but the failed launch - the first such incident in Russia's post-Soviet history - raised concerns about the state of the Soyuz programme.

A Soyuz-FG rocket carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos' Alexei Ovchinin failed two minutes into its flight on October 11, activating an automatic rescue system that sent their capsule into a steep ride back to Earth.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, American astronaut Anne McClain, and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques successfully launched at 6:31 a.m. ET from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and went into orbit a short time later.

Russia's state space corporation, Roscosmos, traced the failure to a damaged sensor and found that two other Soyuz rockets might have the same defect.

McClain, Saint-Jacques and Kononenko will spend more than six months at the space station doing research and experiments in biology, Earth science, physical sciences and technology.

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At a press conference the night before the launch, crew commander Kononenko said the astronauts "absolutely" trusted teams preparing for the flight.

"Looking forward to having a full crew of six up here again, at least for a few weeks".

October's accident had highlighted the "smart design of the Soyuz and the incredible work that the search and rescue people here on the ground are ready to do every launch", he said.

"We are psychologically and technically prepared for blast-off and any situation which, God forbid, may occur on board".

Stakes were high for Monday's launch, the first to carry a crew since a previous mission to the space station in October was aborted two minutes into the flight after a booster failed to properly separate from the rocket.

There, they'll meet the European Space Agency's Alexander Gerst, NASA's Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Roscosmos' Sergey Prokopyev, the current crew of the ISS who'll use the Soyuz to return to Earth on December 20.

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