STORY FOR CBS NEWS & USED WITH PERMISSION
A Russian cosmonaut and his NASA pilot, five months after running a dramatic launch break in October of October, finally made the orbit and together with a NASA astronaut who made his first flight with it International Space Station six hours later to raise the lab's crew back to six.
Under a cloudy sky, Soyuz broke booster life and climbed from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:14:08 EDT (12:14 Friday local time), about the moment the Earth's rotation brought the launch pad – the same used by Yuri Gagarin at the space age – in the plane of the station's orbit.
Using a fast-track rendezvous procedure, Soyuz MS-12 / 58S commander Alexey Ovchinin, left-seat flight engineer Tyler "Nick" The Hague and astronaut Christina Koch caught up in the lab complex after a four-lane chase and moved in for a automated docking at Earth-modulated Rassvet module at 9:01
After waiting for the remaining movement to moisten, hooks and latches to retract the ferry ship for a so-called "hard friend" with the docking gate. Doors were expected to open about two hours later, after testing to verify an airtight seal and to equalize pressure between the two spacecraft.
Pending the new crew, station command Oleg Kononenko, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques and NASA flight engineer Anne McClain arrived. They were launched to outpost on December 3 and have had the station to themselves since December 19, when a former Sojuz crew returned to Earth.
The station is normally manned by a crew of six, but the crew rotation scheme was thrown from last October 11 when a Soyuz rocket with Ovchinin and The Hague suffered catastrophic disturbances two minutes after its launch when one of four belt amplifiers failed to separate the clean from the rocket's central core stage .
The Soyuz abort system was automatically switched on, accelerating the crew capsule away from the failed rocket. Ovchinin and The Hague reached a height of just over 50 kilometers before they landed safely about 250 miles from the launch site.
The problem with the normally reliable Soyuz booster was quickly corrected, allowing Kononenko, Saint-Jacques and McClain to blow up on December 3. But air traffic must be repositioned.
Soyuz MS-12 / 58S spacecraft launched on Thursday was originally expected to start in April with commander Oleg Skripochka, a United Arab Emirates guest cosmonaut and Koch, who was in training as the flight control engine or co-pilot. But as a result of the break the flight moved up and Ovchinin and The Hague were assigned to join Koch with The Hague and took over pilot role.
Koch, an electric engineer, mountaineer and veteran Antarctic scientist, said she had no difficulty attaching to a Soyuz spacecraft and straight into space.
"It's an incredible machine," she said. "The fact that it's reliability is so high is something to keep in very high regard, and it has been a great privilege to train on a spacecraft that has such a good record. It's been an honor. It's a good spacecraft."
The expanded sex member is facing an unusually busy first week along with three spacewalks scheduled for the end of the month to install new solar absorbers and perform other upgrades and maintenance. Hague and McClain will perform the first battery pack replacement on March 22 with McClain and Koch expected to follow seven days later. The Hague and Saint-Jacques will carry out the third EVA on April 8th.
Cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya was the first woman to enter space in 1984. Eleven American women followed in their footsteps, beginning with astronaut Kathryn Sullivan during an airbus in October 1984. McClain and Koch would be the one thirteenth and fourteenth to float outside a spacecraft and the first spacecraft store.
NASA originally planned to install the new solar cells during two spacewalks last fall, but the launch of the Japanese HTV-7 freighter transported them to orbit was delayed and the EVAs were postponed until after Haags expected arrival in October last year. In the wake of the launch, the battery plant was interrupted again.
Alongside the spacewalks, the station's crew will carry out a complete slate of scientific research and routine maintenance and loosen six unloaded cargo ships – two Russian Progress carriers, two SpaceX Dragon supply vessels, a Northrup Grumman Cygnus canister and a Japanese HTV.
Kononenko, Saint-Jacques and McClain are expected to return to Earth on June 25 to set up a 203-day mission. Ovchinin, The Hague and Koch will have the station for themselves between July 6 and three new crew members will arrive: Soyuz MS-13 / 59S commander Alexander Skvortsov, NASA astronaut Drew Morgan and Italian Luca Parmitano, a veteran European Space Agency astronaut .
That flight had been the last Russian mission contracted to carry American astronauts as NASA transitions to commercial crew ships built by SpaceX and Boeing. SpaceX launched its Crew Dragon spacecraft on an unilateral test aircraft on March 2 and may be ready to launch the first astronauts in the middle of the summer frame.
The Hague and Koch have been trained for Crew Dragon and Boeing's Starliner Docks, Milestones Hague says that "a really big deal" for NASA, so the US space agency ends its only dependence on the Russian Soyuz for transportation to and from the space station.
But NASA secures its bets. The agency is in the process of buying two more Soyuz sites, one for use in the fall and the other next spring to make sure American astronauts reach the commercial crew program station in major delays.
However, it plays out, Ovchinin, The Hague and Koch are scheduled to return to Earth on October 3 to pack up a 204-day mission.