The Soyuz M-23 spacecraft was launched from the Baikonour Cosmodrome, with no astronauts on board.
There Soyuz shuttle performed a solo flight last night, at 1:24 am Italian time, starting from the Baikonour cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to reach the International Space Station (ISS). On board were 429 kilos of supplies for the ISS crew but no astronauts.
The Soyuz M-23 will replace the M-22, which was damaged by a micro-meteorite, and will be used to return to our planet Dmitry Petelin, the current commander Sergey Prokopyev and American Francisco Rubio.
Initially, the launch of the Soyuz M-23 shuttle was scheduled for February 20, however it was postponed due to a problem with the thermal control system of the Russian freighter Progress. This malfunction caused all subsequent departures from the Baikonour Cosmodrome to be blocked, pending the necessary checks.
The Soyuz M-23 shuttle will rendezvous with the International Space Station at 1.15am on February 27th. On December 14, the M-22 shuttle was damaged by micrometeorite debris, causing a leak in the cooling system. After analyzing the images acquired by the European robotic arm Era and Canadarm 2, Roscosmos concluded that the shuttle was unable to guarantee the safety of the astronauts. For this reason, the decision was made to proceed with the launch of the Soyuz M-23.