Veteran Crew Launches to the Space Station Today

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Two US astronauts, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev will be making the voyage, taking off in a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan in the first crewed flight of 2018.

A NASA astronaut with ties to Canada has blasted off to the International Space Station where he will stay almost six months.

Harry Shaw, an engineer at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Centre, said: "If this technology proves to be compatible with Nasa's networks and provides links that are stable with respect to the movement of small satellites in orbit, the small satellite community could receive important benefits in space-to-ground communications". Liftoff is set for 1744:23 GMT (1:44:23 p.m. EDT; 11:44:23 p.m. Baikonur time) Wednesday, roughly the moment the Earth's rotation brings the launch pad under the space station's orbital track.

NASA's Scott Tingle, as well as Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, are now aboard the space station. Feustel, Arnold and Artemyev are supposed to return in August.

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The trio will dock with the space station Friday to begin a five-month stay aboard the orbiting research complex. Feustel has two space shuttle flights under his belt, including STS-125, the final Hubble Space Telescope fix mission, in 2009.

"The crew's mood is festive", Artemyev told mission control as the ship neared the limits of the Earth's atmosphere.

The ISS crew will also test new advanced materials, as well as technologies for growing plants in space.

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