Russia’s Soyuz rocket has continued its safe operations as the space vehicle made its second manned launch after a failed mission in 2018. NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin are on their way to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz.

Ground operators reported a successful and smooth launch of the rocket on March 14 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Space.com reported Thursday.

"A great launch of the Soyuz-MS12 crew," NASA spokesperson Gary Jordan said. "A textbook ascent and the Soyuz is in orbit, solar arrays deployed and the crew is on its way."

The astronauts aboard Soyuz are expected to arrive at ISS on Friday night. They are scheduled for nearly seven months of operations at the space station. 

Hague, Koch and Ovchinin will join NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacque, who went to the ISS in December.

Hague, McClain, Koch and Saint-Jacques will conduct their spacewalks on March 22 and 29 and on April 8. Koch and McClain’s trip outside the station in late March will mark the first spacewalk conducted by an all-female crew.

Following the arrival of the next crew at ISS, the space station is scheduled to receive cargo capsules launched by Northrop Grumman and SpaceX in April. Boeing also plans to dock its new CST-100 Starliner to the facility as part of the spacecraft’s uncrewed test flight.

Starliner is part of a NASA program seeking commercial space vehicles made by U.S.-based companies to replace Russia’s Soyuz in launching astronauts to the ISS. 

Soyuz Failure 

NASA temporarily suspended crewed flights to the ISS in late 2018 after the Russian rocket capsule made an emergency landing shortly after its launch in October. Analysis showed that a faulty sensor that may have been badly damaged during assembly caused the system failure, the BBC reported

Russia then warned that two other Soyuz rockets could be defective, which led to the suspension of its flights for additional checks.

Ovchinin and Hague were aboard the capsule during the incident. But the two were safely recovered after the failed launch.