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Russia successfully launches manned spacecraft to ISS

MOSCOW, May 15 — Russia's spacecraft Soyuz TMA-04M with a crew of three blasted off from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan Tuesday, according to Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos.

The Soyuz rocket, carrying the manned spacecraft, was launched from the Gagarin launch pad at 7:00 Moscow time (0300 GMT) with Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin, and NASA astronaut Joe Acaba.

The space agency announced that the TMA-04M had seperated from the Soyuz rocket and smoothly reached the intended orbit ten minutes after blast-off.

After orbital insertion, the spaceship is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) at 8:39 (0439 GMT) Moscow time on Thursday in an automatic mode, the Roscosmos said.

It was crew commander Padalka's fourth space flight and first space trip for environmental engineer Revin. California-born hydrogeologist Acaba, who performed his first spacewalk in 2009, will celebrate his 45th birthday in space Thursday, the same day the Soyuz docking to the ISS.

The crew will conduct several scientific experiments and a spacewalk during their four-month-long space journey.

The launch of the Soyuz spacecraft had been postponed for about two months after an air leak was found in the spacecraft's re-entry vehicle.

After the retirement of the U.S. shuttle fleet, Russia's Soyuz spacecraft are the only way for astronauts to reach the ISS at least until 2015. (PNA/Xinhua)

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