Soyuz Rocket Launches 3-Man Crew on Express Trip to Space Station

Soyuz Rocket Launches 3 Astronauts to Space Station
A Russian Soyuz rocket blasts two cosmonauts and one NASA astronaut toward the International Space Station from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25, 2013. (Image credit: NASA TV)

A Russian Soyuz rocket launched a new U.S.-Russian crew on an "express" flight to the International Space Station Wednesday (Sept. 25), kicking off a six-hour sprint to the orbiting laboratory.

The rocket launched a Russian-built Soyuz space capsule carrying NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins and cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy blasted off at 4:58 p.m. EDT (2058 GMT) from the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where the local time was 2:58 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 26.

The trio of spaceflyers is expected to arrive at the space station at 10:48 p.m. EDT (0248 Sept. 26 GMT), hovering through the hatch, joining the three astronauts currently aboard the station about 90 minutes later. You can watch coverage of the docking here on via NASA TV beginning at 10 p.m. EDT (0200 Sept. 26 GMT).

Astronaut Mike Hopkins sits in his seat aboard a Soyuz spacecraft before launching to the International Space Station. Image released Sept. 25, 2013. (Image credit: NASA TV)

"The day is finally here," Hopkins wrote today in a post on Twitter, where he is chronicling his mission under the name @AstroIllini. "Next tweet from space. Thx for well wishes (sorry I couldn't respond to them all) & thx for sharing in this adventure." [See Photos from the Soyuz launch]

This trip marks the first spaceflight for Hopkins, a colonel in the United States Air Force. Chosen as an astronaut in 2009, the NASA fitness guru will be the first in his class to travel into space. It took about two and a half years of training to prepare for this trip to the space station.

"I'm certainly very honored and feel very lucky to be the first from my class to launch into space, but I think it's very exciting for my classmates as well because this is the start of our time," Hopkins told about two weeks before launch. "I look forward to watching the rest of my classmates in the future launch to space as well."

Kotov has already flown two six-month stays on the International Space Station including a stint as the commander of Expedition 23 in 2010.

Expedition 37 NASA Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins, far left, Soyuz Commander Oleg Kotov and Russian Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy, far right, wave and give two thumbs up following a press conference held at the Cosmonaut Hotel, on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. (Image credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi)

Once fellow Expedition 37 crewmembers NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano and cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin fly back to Earth on Nov. 11, Kotov will take over as commander of Expedition 38.

This is also the first spaceflight for Ryazanskiy.

"Probably everyone who goes to space is looking forward to seeing our planet," Ryazanskiy said during a NASA pre-flight interview. "It is an amazing view. That is what I have heard. There will be some unforgettable impressions. That is what I am looking forward to. Everything else besides that is everyday routine, even though sometimes it can be very interesting. This is what we were training for." partner Spaceflight now is also offering updates about the Soyuz launch and space station arrival via its Mission Status Center.

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Miriam Kramer
Staff Writer

Miriam Kramer joined as a Staff Writer in December 2012. Since then, she has floated in weightlessness on a zero-gravity flight, felt the pull of 4-Gs in a trainer aircraft and watched rockets soar into space from Florida and Virginia. She also served as's lead space entertainment reporter, and enjoys all aspects of space news, astronomy and commercial spaceflight.  Miriam has also presented space stories during live interviews with Fox News and other TV and radio outlets. She originally hails from Knoxville, Tennessee where she and her family would take trips to dark spots on the outskirts of town to watch meteor showers every year. She loves to travel and one day hopes to see the northern lights in person. Miriam is currently a space reporter with Axios, writing the Axios Space newsletter. You can follow Miriam on Twitter.