Soyuz capsule carrying 3 astronauts blasts off for ISS

Washington: A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying a team of three astronauts from the US, Russia and Japan blasted off for the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The capsule with the three crew members — NASA’s Scott Tingle, Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency — is scheduled to dock with the space station’s Rassvet module on December 19, the US space agency aid.

The arrival of Tingle, Shkaplerov and Kanai will restore the station’s crew complement to six.

They will join Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos and his crewmates, Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA.

The crew members will spend more than four months conducting approximately 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development, NASA said.

Highlights of upcoming investigations include demonstrating the benefits of manufacturing fibre optic filaments in a microgravity environment.

Other important investigations include a new study looking at structures that are vital to the design of advanced optical materials and electronic devices and examining a drug compound and drug delivery system designed to combat muscular breakdown in space or during other prolonged periods of disuse, such as extended bed rest on Earth.

Vande Hei, Acaba and Misurkin are scheduled to remain aboard the station until February 2018, and Tingle, Shkaplerov and Kanai are scheduled to return to Earth in April, the US space agency said.