Videos: Soyuz Launch Day Activities & Sunset Liftoff

Russia’s trusted Soyuz FG rocket blasted off at sunset on Friday, thundering off on a nine-minute climb into orbit with a three-man crew from Russia, the U.S. and Italy. Shortly after its 15:41:12 UTC liftoff, the 49.5-meter tall rocket quickly climbed back into direct illumination by the sun, providing a spectacular show for observers on the ground as the ascending vehicle shed its escape tower, launch shroud and the four strap-on boosters – putting on a prominent display of the Korolev Cross, named after the father of the R7/Soyuz design.

Riding aboard Soyuz MS-05, Commander Sergey Ryazansky and Flight Engineers Randy Bresnik and Paolo Nespoli enjoyed a smooth ride into orbit, being dispatched on a fast-track rendezvous with the International Space Station for a four-and-a-half-month stay.

>>Read our Launch Recap