On December 3, 2018, a Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko. It was the first manned launch since the Soyuz MS-10 spaceflight aborted shortly after launch on 11 October 2018 due to a failure of the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle boosters. Notes 1 It was the 100th orbital launch of 2018.
Soyuz MS-11 successfully docked to the ISS about six hours after the launch.
European Space Agency astronaut aboard the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst photographed the launch and the docking from the ISS and published these amazing photos on his Twitter account.
Transporting the three members of the Expedition 58 crew to the International Space Station (NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko), it was the 140th flight of a Soyuz spacecraft and the 100th orbital launch of 2018.
After six hours from the launch, the spacecraft successfully docked to the ISS. While it is technically possible to launch the Soyuz rocket at any time, it’s most efficient to do so shortly after the International Space Station orbit passes over the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. This shortens the amount of time to rendezvous and docking with the ISS from about two days to only six hours. However, if the Soyuz rocket misses the necessary launch window for any reason, the spacecraft has enough extra fuel to revert to a two-day-long rendezvous. This happened in March 2014 because of an altitude control problem.
The Soyuz spacecraft was designed by USSR’s Korolev Design Bureau (now RKK Energia) in the 1960s, originally built as part of the Soviet manned lunar programs. It remains in service today, and as of December 2018, all expeditions to the International Space Station use Soyuz vehicles. One Soyuz is always remains attached to the station to allow a quick return in an emergency.
Gerst also created a time-lapse video of the Soyuz M-11 launch.
On October 11, 2018, a few minutes after liftoff, the Soyuz M-10 craft went into contingency abort due to a booster failure and had to return to Earth. By the time the contingency abort was declared, the launch escape system (LES) tower had already been ejected and the capsule was pulled away from the rocket using the backup motors on the capsule fairing. Both crew members, Roscosmos cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Hague, were recovered alive in good health.