A Soyuz rocket took off on Wednesday from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, bound for the International Space Station (ISS) with an American and two Russians on board, amid the tension sparked by Moscow's offensive in Ukraine.
"The stability is good, the crew feels good," a NASA commentator said after takeoff, broadcast live jointly on the sites of the U.S. and Russian space agencies. The Russian rocket took off on schedule at 1:54 p.m. GMT from the steppes of Kazakhstan, soaring in a trail of fire into darkened skies, the images show.
This mission by American Frank Rubio of NASA and Russians Sergei Prokopiev and Dmitri Peteline of the Russian space agency Roscosmos represents a rare example of cooperation between Moscow and Washington, whose relations are currently at their lowest.
Rubio is the first American astronaut to travel to the ISS on board a Russian rocket since the start of the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, launched on 24 February.
The crew is to spend six months aboard the ISS, where they will link up with Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemiev, Denis Matveïev and Sergei Korsakov, American astronauts Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren and Jessica Watkins, and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. This is the first flight for Rubio and Peteline and the second for Prokopiev.
Docking with the Russian segment of ISS is scheduled after a three-hour Soyuz journey.