BAIKONUR /Kazakhstan/, April 20. /TASS/. Russia’s Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft carrying two crew members has been launched to the International Space Station (ISS) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, a source in the Roscosmos State Corporation told TASS.
The spacecraft has reached low Earth orbit and is heading for the International Space Station (ISS), according to the source.
"The spacecraft has separated from the third stage of the Soyuz-FG booster rocket," the source said
The crew comprises Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronaut Jack Fischer. The third seat is occupied by a 70-kilogram cargo container.
Initially, two Russian cosmonauts were scheduled to go to the ISS but Roscosmos decided to cut down the number of Russian crew members from three to two until the Nauka (or Science) Multifunctional Laboratory Module docks to the ISS, which means at least until the autumn of 2018. At the same time, the number of foreign astronauts will grow from three to four. The third seat on the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft was planned to be given to a foreign astronaut but the attempts to find one who would be ready to go failed.
The Soyuz-FG booster blasted off from Baikonur spaceport at 10:13 Moscow Time. The flight to the International Space Station will proceed in accordance with the shortened six-hour schedule. That will make it possible for the crew to reach the docking unit of the Poisk module at 16:22 on the same day. The previous three flights of the Soyuz MS spacecraft lasted 48 hours, as those were test flights.
The current ISS crew consists of Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet.