Thomas Pesquet, Oleg Novitsky and Peggy Whitson are in space circling Earth, free from the Soyuz launcher that released them from the clutches of gravity.
The Soyuz rocket put their Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft into a so-called insertion orbit. The spacecraft separated from the launcher in three stages, the last occurring at 20:28 GMT on 17 November. Orbital parameters from the spacecraft are radioed down so mission controllers can calculate their orbit and position in space.
The crew fired the spacecraft’s thrusters twice shortly after launch to increase their speed and raise their orbit even more, bringing them into the so-called phasing orbit.
The first burn occurred at 23:49 GMT increasing their speed by 30.91 m/s with the second burn occurring 50 minutes later at 00:32 GMT in the morning of 18 November. The second burn increased their speed by 30.68 m/s.
These burns put the Soyuz spacecraft well on its way towards the International Space Station and into the phasing orbit to catch-up with the Space Station. A third smaller burn at 21:16 GMT on 18 November fine-tunes the trio’s orbit for a perfect docking with the Space Station just over 24 hours later.
Now they are in space, the two-day flight is relatively calm for the astronauts with most operations running automatically. Contact with Earth is limited to when their spacecraft is flying over Russia and in direct line of sight with ground stations there. This means that they can only speak to mission controllers once every hour or so. The Soyuz spacecraft does not have internet, email or even a laptop.