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Launching into Space: Soyuz Rocket Sends Astronauts to ISS

Author: European Space Agency, ESATime: 2024-01-01 10:50:01

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Spectacular Soyuz MS-9 Launch Carrying International Crew to ISS

On June 6th, 2018, a Soyuz MS-9 rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying a crew of three to the International Space Station (ISS) on the Horizons mission. The launch was spectacular, shown in a live video feed that offered new views outside of the spacecraft as it ascended into space.

On board were ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst with Russian spacecraft commander Sergey Prokopyev, and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor. Their science and research mission aimed to broaden horizons and expand knowledge through experiments conducted on the ISS.

International Crew of Three Begins Ambitious Horizons Mission

The Soyuz launch marked the start of Alexander Gerst's Horizons mission to the ISS. As one of Europe's most experienced astronauts, he was joined by an international crew bringing together NASA and Russia's space programs. Their ambitious mission planned to spend over half a year living and working aboard the ISS, conducting valuable research across scientific fields like biology, physics, and Earth observation.

Live Video Reveals Spectacular, Key Moments of Launch

The Soyuz MS-9 launch footage offered unprecedented views of the rocket ascending into space. As the engines fired with bright exhaust plumes, cameras outside the spacecraft showed the curvature of Earth receding behind it. Key moments like stage separations and engine cutoffs were visible, including the jettisoning of the third stage as the Soyuz reached orbital velocity of over 27,000 km/hr.

Tracking the Rocket's Speedy Ascent into Orbit

The video views from Soyuz allowed tracking its ascent in real-time, gaining tremendous speed as its stages propelled it into low Earth orbit. Calls from mission control confirmed the rocket was operating normally, hitting key milestones.

First stage separation occurred as planned around two minutes into the flight. Live views showed the dramatic jettisoning of the first stage engines and emergency escape tower as Soyuz continued under second stage power.

Gaining Velocity to Achieve Stable Orbit

The Soyuz rapidly accelerated during its 8 minute 45 second powered ascent to orbit. Reaching speeds over 10 times the speed of sound, it had to gain enough velocity to achieve a stable orbit. By main engine cut-off, the Soyuz was travelling at the necessary 27,000 km/hr to continually free-fall around Earth without descending back.

Separating Rocket Stages According to Schedule

Views from Soyuz showed stage separations occurring precisely on schedule. Second stage separation was visible around 4 minutes 48 seconds into flight. Third stage separation came at 8 minutes 45 seconds, just as the engines cut off on reaching orbital velocity. The final stage was seen falling back toward Earth with a clear curve of the planet behind.

Smooth Rendezvous and Arrival at International Space Station

Following its flawless launch, the Soyuz MS-9 spaceship gradually raised its orbit through a series of engine burns over 6 hours. This set up phasing to match the ISS altitude and intercept its ground track.

Hatch opening occurred less than 3 hours after docking, reuniting the new crew with station astronauts for their extended stay to utilize the unique microgravity lab.

Expanding Scientific Knowledge Through ISS Research

The International Space Station serves as an invaluable orbiting platform for microgravity experiments across diverse fields. The long-duration Horizons mission enabled over 500 studies leveraging the ISS capabilities.

From growing protein crystals to observe Alzheimer's related changes, to student-designed tests of crater formation physics, the expanded investigations advance science and technology.

Future Soyuz Launches to Maintain ISS Operations

The reliable Russian Soyuz system continues ferrying multi-national crews, enabling continuous ISS occupation over two decades. Upcoming missions prepare for transition to new American commercial crew ships by SpaceX and Boeing.

While Soyuz launches from Baikonur Cosmodrome may evolve with geopolitical factors, they remain vital for maintaining ISS through its currently approved 2024 lifetime.


The Soyuz MS-9 mission marked another success continuing ISS assembly and operations through international cooperation. Its expanded scientific research broadens knowledge for the benefit of humanity on Earth and future space exploration achievements.


Q: What crew launched on the Soyuz MS-9 rocket?
A: The crew consisted of spacecraft commander Sergey Prokopyev, NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency.

Q: What was the purpose of their mission?
A: Their Horizons mission aimed to broaden horizons in science and space exploration while working aboard the International Space Station.

Q: What new video did Soyuz MS-9 provide?
A: It had an external camera providing live video showing key moments like stage separations from outside the spacecraft for the first time.

Q: How fast must the rocket travel to achieve orbit?
A: The Soyuz rocket must reach a speed of approximately 27,000 km/hr to achieve orbit.

Q: What research is conducted on the ISS?
A: Astronauts live and work on the ISS to expand knowledge through experiments in biology, biotechnology, physics, astronomy and other fields.

Q: How are Soyuz rockets and the ISS critical for the future?
A: The reliable Soyuz launch system and orbiting laboratory of the ISS will continue serving as access points to space and microgravity research.

Q: How long do ISS missions typically last?
A: Expeditions aboard the ISS generally last five to six months.

Q: What new views did the Soyuz MS-9 mission provide?
A: It gave the first live video from an external camera on a Soyuz rocket, showing key events like stage separations.

Q: Where did the Soyuz MS-9 mission launch from?
A: The Soyuz rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Q: Who operates the Soyuz launch system?
A: The Russian space agency Roscosmos oversees Soyuz operations.