Soyuz TMA-12 launches

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Launch of an earlier Soyuz mission.

At 11:16 GMT (17:16 local time) this morning, a Russian Soyuz-FG carrier rocket launched from Site 1/5 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft, on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Aboard were three cosmonauts; Russians Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko, and South Korean Yi So-yeon. Volkov and Kononenko make up the ISS Expedition 17 crew, whilst Yi is flying as a Spaceflight Participant through the Korean Astronaut Programme. All three are making their first trip into space.

Two major firsts are being achieved on this mission. Yi is the first South Korean to fly in space, and Volkov is the first second-generation space traveller, his father Alexander Volkov having flown three space missions, Soyuz T-14, TM-7 and TM-13, spending over a year aboard the Mir space station across the three missions.

Soyuz TMA-12 successfully separated from the carrier rocket about nine minutes after lift off. Docking with the Pirs module of International Space Station is planned for Thursday at 13:00 GMT. In preparation for docking, the Progress M-63 cargo spacecraft undocked at 08:30 GMT yesterday morning, and was de-orbited to burn-up in the Earth's atmosphere at 11:50.

The TMA-12 spacecraft will remain docked to the ISS as an emergency escape capsule until October, when it will be used to return the Expedition 17 crew to Earth, along with space tourist Richard Garriott. Yi So-yeon will return to Earth aboard Soyuz TMA-11, which is scheduled to land in just under a fortnight's time.

This is the 99th manned flight of the Soyuz programme, the first of which was launched in late April 1967, and the 107th manned flight of the Soviet/Russian space programme. It is the fifteenth orbital, and third manned launch of 2008.