MOSCOW – The Russian Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft docked with the International Space Station on Wednesday with three crew on board.
It reached its destination just over three hours after being launched into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The spacecraft made contact with the Russian segment of the ISS four minutes ahead of schedule at 0848 GMT while flying over the Mediterranean Sea, according to a live broadcast of the maneuver.
Soyuz MS-17, carrying cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, and NASA astronaut Kathleen Rubins, launched at 0545 GMT from Baikonur, powered by a Soyuz-2.1a rocket.
The mission, which took place on Rubins’ 42nd birthday, was the first manned flight to reach the ISS in just over three hours after circling the Earth twice.
The trajectory was tested on five Progress space freighters and the crew was trained to manage the ultra-fast route without problems.
Ryzhikov, the flight commander, joked on Tuesday that the crew would reach the ISS faster than the time taken to travel from the Star City training center near Moscow to the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
The crew will stay in space for six months and were welcomed to the ISS by the current tenants, cosmonauts Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy.
This trio will leave the orbital platform on Oct. 21 aboard the Soyuz MS-16, which arrived at the ISS on April 9.
The new crew will continue working on hundreds of biological, biotechnological, physics and Earth science experiments.
Among the missions they will carry out is sealing micro air leaks detected at the station in August.
Ryzhikov said the cosmonauts are also planning two spacewalks.
The crew will witness the arrival on Nov. 1 of the SpaceX Crew-1 mission which will bring NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and their Japanese colleague Soichi Noguchi to the ISS.
The ISS is a $150 billion project involving 15 nations and consists of 15 permanent modules that orbit the Earth at a distance of 400 km at a speed of more than 27,000 km per hour.