May 27, 2009

Soyuz spacecraft is headed toward the ISS

A Soyuz spacecraft lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday, en route to an historic linkup with the International Space Station.

The Soyuz spacecraft's docking will mark the first time the space station will have a six-member crew, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the European Space Agency said.

Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Robert Thirsk and ESA astronaut Frank De Winne will join the three ISS crewmembers already at the station -- Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, NASA astronaut Michael Barratt and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.

The Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft, which was launched at 6:34 a.m. EDT, is scheduled to dock with the space station at 8:36 a.m. EDT Friday. That will also mark the first time all five partner space agencies will be represented aboard the station, NASA said.

For the first four months of his six-month mission, De Winne will be a member of the Expedition 20 crew, serving as a flight engineer reporting to Expedition 20 commander Padalka, the ESA said. During an October ceremony, De Winne will become commander of the Expedition 21 crew until his return to Earth in November. He will be the first European to command the ISS.