March 26, 2009

New crew en route to the ISS

The 19th crew to live aboard the International Space Station was launched into space Thursday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said the crew -- U.S. astronaut Michael Barratt, Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi -- lifted off at 7:49 a.m. EDT.

NASA said the Soyuz spacecraft was to dock with the station at 9:14 a.m. EDT Saturday. Padalka will serve as commander of Expeditions 19 and 20 aboard the station, while Barratt will serve as a flight engineer. Padalka and Barratt's other crewmate, Koichi Wakata of Japan, arrived at the station March 17 on space shuttle Discovery.

Simonyi, flying to the station under a commercial agreement with the Russian Federal Space Agency, previously visited the complex in April 2007. He's the first spaceflight participant to make a second flight to the station.

The Expedition 19 crew will prepare for the arrival of the rest of the station's first six-person contingent. Roman Romanenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Frank De Winne of the European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Bob Thirsk are to arrive at the station May 29. NASA said that will mark the station's first six-person crew and the first time crew members will represent all five ISS partners.