A new crew has arrived at the International Space Station after what NASA called "a very successful launch today."
NASA flight engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba and Russian Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:17 p.m. ET.
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It took the Soyuz spacecraft about nine minutes to launch into an initial orbit 202 kilometres from Earth. A series of engine burns brought the crew in line with the orbit of the International Space Station.
The Soyuz reached the space station in six hours, docking around 11 p.m. ET.
NASA said that "the crew is feeling fine."
The space station is the only permanently occupied laboratory in space. It orbits about 400 kilometres above Earth.
The hatches were expected to open around 12:40 a.m. ET on Sept. 13, when the new arrivals would be greeted by the current crew, composed of NASA commander Randy Bresnik and flight engineers Sergey Ryasanskiy from Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli from the European Space Agency.
The mission is a first for Vande Hei.
"As a kid I never would have told anyone that I wanted to be an astronaut. My attitude about that was that it would have been like saying I wanted to be Spider-Man," said Vande Hei in a video released by NASA prior to the launch. "I always thought working at NASA would be amazing because of my physics background.… The fact that I get to be an astronaut is gravy."
Vande Hei said he's happy to be part of a "peaceful endeavour that could actually help out all of humanity."
On Sept. 2, two NASA astronauts, Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer, as well as Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, returned from the space station with a parachute touchdown in Kazakhstan. Whitson, 57, broke the U.S. record for cumulative time in space.
The new space station crew will stay for five months. They'll continue work on hundreds of experiments in biology and biotechnology, as well as physical and earth sciences.