Following the successful launch of the Soyuz rocket and a six hour journey to the ISS, the Soyuz capsule carrying astronauts Tim Peake, Tim Kopra and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko has arrived at the Space Station. The docking occurred at a slightly later time than expected of 17:33 GMT (12:33 ET) due to an issue with the automatic docking system.
The launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan took place earlier in the day at 11:03 GMT (06:03 ET). The Soyuz capsule containing three new crew members were lifted away from Earth by the tireless workhorse that is the Soyuz rocket. The Russian rocket is considered to be the most reliable and successful rockets ever built and flown, with over 1500 flights and numerous human launches. It took just 8 minutes and 48 seconds for the Soyuz capsule to reach orbit and for the capsule to be put on path for an encounter with the ISS just six hours later.
The six hour travel time to the ISS is the shortest time possible to get to the ISS from Baikonur Cosmodrome. In order for the travel time to be achieved, the launch must occur precisely on time and no problems can occur in orbit. In cases where problems do occur, the travel time to the ISS is extended to two days, a long time for astronauts in the highly enclosed Soyuz spacecraft.
Following four orbits of Earth, final approach began approximately 15 minutes prior to docking. The Russian spacecraft lined up with the Rassvet docking port and approached it at a very slow speed relative to the ISS, minimising any risk of a high-speed impact. However, just 20 metres from the Space Station, the Soyuz suffered KURS failure ending the possibility of an automatic docking. Instead, cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, the most experienced of the three crew members onboard the Soyuz, manually docked the spacecraft over India at 17:33 GMT (12:33 ET).
The Tim Peake, Tim Kopra and Yuri Malenchenko later disembarked the capsule and were greeted by Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov in the ISS. The occasion is particularly monumental for Tim Peake, as he is the first British astronaut to live onboard the Space Station. The new crew members will spend some time getting used to living in space, before work begins on scientific experiments which will dominate their next six months on the ISS. Meanwhile, the Soyuz capsule will remain attached to the ISS and serve as an emergency escape vehicle during their stay.