A pair of Soyuz rockets were launched into orbit on the same day. At 1943 GMT on 27 March 2015, a Soyuz FG launched the TMA-016M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, near Tyuratam in Kazakhstan. The flight carried Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko, along with NASA astronaut Scott Kelly. The spacecraft docked with the International Space Station (ISS) at the Poisk module at 0133 GMT on 28 March 2015 after a “fast” six hour rendezvous technique.
Mikhial Kornienko and Scott Kelly are due to stay on the ISS for over one year as part of an experiment medical examination of the effect that long term spaceflight has on the human body. As a “control”, Scott Kelly’s twin brother, the retired astronaut Mark Kelly, will remain on Earth and have his body and bodily functions measured in a parallel test.
The former pop-singer Sarah Brightman, who was previously married Andrew Lloyd-Webber and once had a hit with “I lost my heart to a starship trooper”, waved the astronauts off. She will become a self-financed space-tourist astronaut herself when she visits the astronauts on the ISS in September.
Also on 27 March, at 2146 GMT a Soyuz ST-B launch vehicle carried two ESA/EU financed Galileo navigation satellites (Galileo FOC FM-03 and FM-04) into orbit from its Sinnamary launch site which is part of the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana. While a previous flight of Galileo FOC FM-01 and FM-02 were badly undershot into an orbit with a perigee nearly 12,000km short of its 23,522 km circular orbit, this flight went more or less to plan and the two satellites become the first pair in the fully operational 30 satellite European navigation satellite constellation. There was a slight launch inaccuracy with 23,600km circular achieved for a target of 23,522km and 56 degree inclination achieved compared to the target of 55.04 degrees which was less than 2% off target (Arianespace no longer publishes 3 sigma limits). Orbital corrections are not expected to affect the lifespans of the spacecraft.