Russian "taxi" crew Commander Victor Afanasyev, rookie Flight Engineer Konstantin Kozeev and European Space Agency Flight Engineer Claudie Haignere began their trip to the ISS at 3:59:34 a.m. CDT (8:59:34 GMT) as their Soyuz rocket climbed away from their cloudy desert launch site in Central Asia. At the time of launch, the Expedition Three crew aboard the ISS, Commander Frank Culbertson, Pilot Vladimir Dezhurov and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin were asleep, flying over the border of Cameroon and Sudan in Africa.
Less than nine minutes after launch, the new Soyuz TM-33 craft was in orbit and its solar arrays were deployed, heading for a linkup with the ISS on Tuesday morning.
Afanasyev, making his fourth flight into space, and Haignere, who is in her second flight, are veterans of previous flights on the Mir Space Station.
Haignere is flying for ESA, but representing CNES, the French Space Agency, under a commercial contract with the Russian Aviation and Space Agency. In addition to helping deliver the new Soyuz to Culbertson, Dezhurov and Tyurin, she will be conducting a host of scientific experiments while she and her crewmates spend eight days aboard the ISS.
The "taxi" crew is scheduled to dock to the Zarya module's nadir docking port on Tuesday at 5:41 a.m. CDT (10:41 GMT), with hatches scheduled to be opened about 90 minutes later to enable the two crews to greet each other. Afanasyev and his crew will depart in the Soyuz return craft currently docked to the new Pirs Docking Compartment early in the morning of October 31 for a landing two hours later in Kazakhstan.
The Expedition Three crew aboard the ISS is scheduled to return to Earth in December after their Expedition Four replacements arrive on board during the STS-108 mission aboard the Shuttle Endeavour.
With systems operating normally, the station is orbiting at an average altitude of 247 statute miles (395 km).
The Expedition Three crew will continue its scientific investigations this coming week in concert with the work being performed on board the ISS by the "taxi" crew.