Soyuz TMA-11M rocket with Sochi Olympic torch blasts off into space

Russia's Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft carrying the 38th/39th expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) and a torch for next year's Sochi Winter Olympic Games lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday.

Russia's Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft carrying the 38th/39th expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) and a torch for next year's Sochi Winter Olympic Games lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday.

"The spacecraft reached its near-Earth orbit approximately nine minutes [after takeoff]. It is expected to dock to the ISS at 2:32 p.m. Moscow time," a spokesman for the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) told Interfax-AVN.

ISS crewmembers will take the Olympic torch on a spacewalk on November 9. The torch will be returned to the Earth on November 11 and will then be used to light the Olympic cauldron in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi in February 2014.

The Soyuz TMA-11M, which was designed and built by the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, based outside of Moscow, is carrying Mikhail Tyurin (Russia), Rick Mastracchio (the United States) and Koici Wakata (Japan), who will spend the next six months onboard the ISS.

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