At 0805 GMT, 19 October 2016, a Soyuz-FG rocket lifted off from Site 31/6, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, carrying the Soyuz MS-02 craft containing crew members of Expedition 49/50 to the International Space Station (ISS). The new crew members are two Russian cosmonauts; Commander Sergey Nikolayevich Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko, accompanied by US astronaut Robert Shane Kimbrough.

The Soyuz craft will make a two-day trip to rendezvous with the ISS, this is in order to allow further testing of the new systems installed on the MS series of Soyuz craft, built by RSC Energia. The practice of two-day trips is expected to be completed after this mission, allowing future Soyuz MS missions, starting with MS-03, to utilise the standard one-day rendezvous. Docking with the ISS is scheduled for 0959 GMT, 21 October.

Soyuz rocket lifting Soyuz MS-02 into orbit. Courtesy of NASA

Soyuz rocket lifting Soyuz MS-02 into orbit. Courtesy of NASA

 

This mission has been delayed from late-September due to an anomaly with the Soyuz craft, found during final tests before integration with the launch vehicle. It was later identified as a “short circuit” located within the fairing. On the 21 September the anomaly was specifically identified as an “improperly bent cable” located behind the seats of the Descent module. The issue was repaired during early-October.

Initial fears over the anomaly stirred rumours that this mission may have had to use the Soyuz MS-03 craft, which was being prepped for its mission later in the year, potentially delaying the crew launch for around another month. As it transpired this was not necessary.