Scott Kelly, left, Alexander Kaleri, center, soar toward orbit aboard the first Soyuz TMA-OM1. Flight engineer Oleg Skripochka, not pictured, is seated to the right. Photo Credit/NASA TV
An upgraded Soyuz spacecraft lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan late Oct. 7 with the first members of the International Space Station's Expedition 26 crew aboard, a pair of Russians and an American who will host the last two scheduled shuttle assembly missions as well as a closely paced series of unmanned cargo craft.
Alexander Kaleri, 54, the Soyuz TMA-01M skipper and veteran of four previous missions to the ISS and former Russian Mir station; Scott Kelly, 46, pilot and commander of two shuttle missions; and Oleg Skripochka, 40, a first time cosmonaut, lifted off at 7:10 p.m, EDT.
The TMA-01M, the first Soyuz equipped with a digital flight computer for improved guidance and navigation and multi-colored instrument displays, thundered away on a trouble-free, ascent. The nine minute climb to orbit delivered the capsule on a trajectory to dock with the station on Sept. 9 at 8:02 p.m. EDT.
The new computer architecture promises to open the venerable Soyuz to further enhancements of the avionics.
"We will have a control and informational bus joining different computers. We will have more redundancies, a new telemetry system," said Kaleri in pre-flight remarks about the TMA-OM1. "Now, we will have an open architecture."
Russia's Mission Control remained in contact with the Soyuz crew throughout the climb to orbit.
"We feel fine, everything is going great," Kaleri radioed as the capsule settled into orbit.