November 17 the launch vehicle (LV) Soyuz FG with manned spacecraft Soyuz МS-03 with the crew of the next long duration expedition successfully lifted off from Gagarin start of BAIKONUR Space Center at 23:20 MT. According the flight program, the first three stages of Soyuz FG have taken the manned spacecraft into low orbit just short of eight minutes and forty-eight seconds after liftoff. Korolev Mission Control Center specialists have taken the further Soyuz MS-03 flight to ISS under control.

The spacecraft carries onboard the crew consisting of spacecraft commander Oleg NOVITSKIY (ROSCOSMOS) and onboard engineer Thomas PESQUET (ESA) and spacecraft onboard engineer, commander ISS-51 Peggy WITSON (NASA).

According to telemetry data, the spacecraft insertion into low-Earth orbit and separation from the third stage of the launch vehicle occurred on schedule, deployment of all antennas and solar array panels was detected immediately after the separation. Systems and assemblies of the upgraded spacecraft operate normally. The crew reports a good health status.

The spacecraft Soyuz MS-03 will use a classic 34-orbit rendezvous capability. The spacecraft will reach the station on November 20, 2016 after about two days of the free flight. The docking with the Mini Research Module (MRM1) Rassvet is scheduled for 01:01 MT and is to be performed in the fully automatic mode.

During the ISS-50 and ISS-51 ROSCOSMOS cosmonaut, NASA and ESA astronauts plan to perform transport cargo vehicle operations; flight tests of the new spacecraft, and test the new systems, i.e. onboard radio system, combined propulsion system, motion control and navigation system, television system. The cosmonauts also will have to ensure undocking of Soyuz MS-02, return of the three ISS-49/50 crew members to the Earth, and docking of Soyuz MS-04 carrying the crewmembers of the ISS-51/52 Increment. The applied scientific research program envisages 44 scientific experiments in various areas like bio-medical, geophysical, biotechnological, etc. The total planned duration of the crew flight will be 180 days.

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