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BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan, July 23. /TASS/. Russian launch vehicle Soyuz-FG that lifted off from the Baikonur Space Center in central Kazakhstan several minutes ago has brought into orbit the Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft, which is carrying a three-strong international crew of Expedition 44/45 to the International Space Station.
"The spacecraft has separated from the third stage of the carrier rocket, has begun an autonomous flight and is heading for the ISS," a spokesman for the Russian space agency Roscosmos told TASS.
The Soyuz-FG started off from Baikonur at 00:03 Moscow Standard Time on Thursday (21:03 GMT on Wednesday).
Traveling to the ISS for a six-months-long mission are the Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, the Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui and NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren.
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.
Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Korniyenko and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly are awaiting them at the station.
Soyuz TMA-17M is due to reach the station in six hours after the launch. It is expected to dock to the station's Rassvet service module at 02:46 GMT.
The initial liftoff of Expedition 44/45 crew from Baikonur was scheduled for May 26 but Roscosmos had to reconsider the date in the wake of a defaulted launch of the Progress M-27M cargo ship, which overshot the designated orbit and was lost eventually.