This is the first spaceflight for both McClain and Saint-Jacques and the fourth trip to the space station for Kononenko.
Three astronauts who were launched into space aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft Monday entered the International Space Station almost eight hours later, a relief to relatives and scientists months after a rocket failure aborted another mission. After the crew checked for leaks, the hatch was opened and they were welcomed aboard the ISS, their home for the next six months.
Their Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft launched from Baikonur at 5:31 p.m. (1131 GMT; 6:31 a.m. EST) then entered a designated orbit just under nine minutes later. This is the first manned Soyuz launch since the October 11 failure that caused Aleksey Ovchinin and Nick Hague to make an emergency landing minutes after liftoff.
The new crew to the station will be tasked with a number of experiments for various organizations on Earth, including biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development. In the October malfunction on the Soyuz, the first ever in Russia's post-Soviet history, it was found that a sensor had failed.
The arrival briefly restores the station's crew complement to six as they join Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Prokopyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
Aunon-Chancellor, Gerst and Prokopyev are scheduled to remain aboard the station until December 20.
"We have confirmation of the spacecraft separation; Soyuz capsule and crew are safely in orbit", NASA said.
The latest trip comes less than two months after a previous mission on October 11 failed, when two astronauts from the United States and Russian Federation were forced to make an emergency landing, as a result of a problem with the booster. That means they will be coordinating the launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on January 7 and that of the Boeing Starliner in March.
NASA spokesperson Gary Johnson described the mission as "textbook launch and insertion into orbit" during the liftoff commentary.
Russian Federation said last month the October launch had failed because of a sensor damaged during assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome, but insisted the spacecraft remained reliable.