A Belgian, a Canadian and a Russian blast off for the International Space Station on Wednesday as Russia steps up its rocket launches to support a doubling of the station’s crew.
The astronauts will lift off aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket at 4:34 pm (1034 GMT) from Russia’s historic Baikonur cosmodrome on the Kazakh steppe.
They will hurtle into low Earth orbit and then make a gradual ascent to the station over two days, docking on Friday.
The voyage marks a doubling of the station’s permanent crew from three to six and with it a rise in the frequency of manned flights aboard the Soyuz, a Soviet-designed rocket that originated in the late 1960s.
Belgian Frank de Winne, Canadian Robert Thirsk and Russian Roman Romanenko will join Russian Gennady Padalka, US astronaut Michael Barratt and Japan’s Koichi Wakata aboard the station.
Until now, the crew of the International Space Station was limited to only three. Now, thanks to recent construction and the new waste processor coming online, the station population can finaly grow to six.