BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (July 15, 2012)--A Russian Soyuz craft was launched into the morning sky Sunday over Kazakhstan carrying three astronauts on their way to the international space station.
NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko and Japan's Akihito Hoshide will travel two days before reaching their three colleagues already at the permanent space outpost.
Family members and colleagues watched Sunday's launch from an observation platform in the Russian-leased cosmodrome in the dry southern steppes of the sprawling Central Asian nation.
The space station, which orbits as high as 255 miles above the earth, is bracing to handle an unprecedented level of traffic.
Japan's HTV3 cargo ship will dock with the space station next week and will be the first of nine craft making contact with the orbiting satellite over a 17-day span.