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Soyuz craft launched to ISS

Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW: A Russian Soyuz spacecraft was launched on Friday carrying an international replacement crew to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Soyuz booster rocket lifted off from the Baikonur space port in Central Asia in the early hours of Friday and within a few hours reached a target orbit. It is to dock with the ISS on Saturday.

The spacecraft carries three spacemen — the Russian crew commander, Sergei Krikalev, and the American astronaut, John Phillips, who were headed for a six-month stay on the space station, and their European Space Agency colleague, Italian Roberto Vittori, who will return in 10 days with the current Russian-American crew.

The Russian, Salizhan Sharipov, and the American, Leroy Chiao, have been aboard the space station since October.

In about four weeks, the new crew will welcome the first U.S. space shuttle to the station after a two-year break. Shuttle flights have been suspended after the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on its way back to Earth on Feb. 1, 2003, killing all seven astronauts on board.

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