BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan, July 23. /TASS/. The Russian spaceship Soyuz TMA-17M with a three-strong international crew aboard - the Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, the Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui and NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren has docked to the Russian segment of the International Space Station, a spokesman for the press service of the Russian space agency told TASS.
"The spacecraft has docked to the smaller research module Rassvet," he said.
The opening of transfer hatches is expected several hours after the docking.
For Kononenko, 51, this is a third orbital mission in his career of a space researcher. He has already spent 391 days in space and has done three spacewalks.
Yui, 45, and Lindgren, 42, have begun their first space mission.
Cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Korniyenko and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly are awaiting them inside the station.
The Soyuz-FG launch vehicle lifted off from the Baikonur Space Center in central Kazakhstan at 00:03 Moscow Standard Time on Thursday (21:03 GMT on Wednesday). Nine minutes after the launch, the spacecraft separated from the carrier rocket and began an autonomous flight that lasted six hours.
Initially, the crew of Expedition 44/45 was to start off on the space mission on May 26 but Roscosmos had to revise the date in the wake of a defaulted launch of the Progress M-27M cargo craft, which overshot the designated orbit and was lost eventually.
In the course of the mission at the ISS, Oleg Kononenko will do an experiment on remote controlling of the robots based on the Earth from space. He spoke about it at an earlier news news conference in the Cosmonauts Training Center in Star City near Moscow.
"While aboard the station, I’ll do remote operating of two robots - one located at the Central Research Institute of Robotic Complexes in St Petersburg and the other, at an institute in Munich," he said. "The purpose of the experiment is to elaborate the operations with land-based robots."
This is a joint Russian-German experiment codenamed Contour-2, Kononenko said.
His research programme also includes the growing of crystals in zero gravity as part of the Plasma-Based Crystal experiment, observation of weather conditions in the framework of the Hurricane experiment, and the tapping of flaws in airtightness of the station’s modules.
In addition to it, Kononenko will do an orbital observation of volcanoes of the Kurile chain of islands.
The crew will be expected to receive and handle two Progress cargo craft, one Japanese and one American cargo carrier during the mission.