NASA astronaut aboard capsule bound from Kazakhstan to International Space Station

A veteran Russian cosmonaut and two spaceflight rookies rocketed into orbit from a Kazakh launch base Wednesday on the first flight of a new-generation Soyuz capsule, kicking off a two-day pursuit of the International Space Station.

The Soyuz MS-01 mission lifted off at 6:36 p.m. PT from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Russia's Anatoly Ivanishin and Japan's Takuya Onishi. Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, postponed earlier launch dates in May and June to allow more testing of capsule software that will guide the docking process with the space station.

The upgraded Soyuz spacecraft was developed by RSC Energia, a Russian manufacturer of spacecraft and space station components.

Tonight, at 9:36 PM EST, three astronauts will ride a Soyuz rocket into space for a rendezvous with the International Space Station.

Ivanishin reported from the spacecraft after the launch, saying "We are feeling fine; everything is good on board".

The most direct route to the International Space Station takes six hours, about the same amount of time it takes to fly from NY to San Francisco. More than two years of intensive training followed, leading Rubins, Ivanishin and Onishi through flight simulators, special pools to simulate zero gravity, and wintertime survival drills in Russian forests.

But the Ivanishin and his crewmates will have to follow a longer route, through a 34-orbit chase to let engineers and flight controllers a chance to thoroughly check the MS-01 vehicle's upgraded systems.

Rubins is a molecular biologist and former "virus hunter"; she worked with West and Central African viruses before being selected as a NASA astronaut in 2009. Rubins and Onishi are both rookie astronauts.

The astronauts-NASA's Kate Rubins, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, and Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi-will reach the ISS at 12:12 AM on Saturday, July 9th.

The Soyuz spacefliers will join NASA's Jeff Williams and Russia's Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin aboard the station, filling out the orbital outpost's crew to its maximum complement of six.

Michael Roberts, deputy chief scientist, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which manages the U.S. National Laboratory aboard the space station, will discuss how these investigations aim to provide a better understanding of living and working in space while also improving life on Earth. "I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to fly with these guys". It's a lot of basic research.

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