Written by Staff Writer
When the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft — carrying NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev and NASA Russian Flight Engineer Nick Hague — lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan this morning, it marked the first flight under the new heavy-lift Russian launch vehicle, called Yutu (agriculture) Soyuz.
The superlatively improved version of the Soyuz rocket is intended to enable missions to Mars, and the red planet in particular.
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To do this, the rocket has modernized and improved several different aspects of its construction, to deliver the first purpose-built rocket that will be a third of the size and weight of its predecessor — the historic Soyuz MS-10 sent up as the basis for Soyuz MS-20, planned for launch in 2021.
During today’s launch, the rocket took off on an extra-planetary trajectory, taking it off in a more deflated orbit with a more elongated orbit to allow for further re-entry speed before falling back onto the Earth.