This graphic shows how the Soyuz-FG rocket will blast British astronaut Tim Peake skywards – and beyond – as he launches on his journey to the International Space Station.
It will take the rocket just six hours to reach the ISS, which will become Peake’s home until June.
The Soyuz FG medium-lift launcher stands 49.5 metres (162.4 feet) tall and has a maximum diameter of 10.3 metres (33.8 feet). It consists of three stages, the first of which comprise the four detachable boosters.
The core and booster thrusters fire together at lift-off, generating 422.5 tonnes of thrust. After about two minutes, the boosters jettison and the core continues to burn. The second stage separates 4.48 minutes into the flight at an altitude of 109 miles. Finally, the Soyuz space capsule containing the crew detaches ready for orbit insertion.
Total lift-off mass is around 305,000 kilograms, most of which is made up of rocket-grade kerosene and liquid oxygen fuel. In the first five minutes of the launch, the rocket will consume around 225 tonnes of fuel.
After lift-off, it should take six hours for the crew to reach the ISS, which hurtles round the Earth at 17,500 mph at an average altitude of 220 miles.
In case anything should go wrong, the Soyuz FG has a Launch Escape System that can be activated prior to launch and during the first 157 seconds of flight.
An abort signal can be triggered automatically by computers or manually by radio.
A solid-fuel rocket mounted on a tower above the crew’s space capsule ignites, shooting it clear. Fast-opening parachutes allow the capsule to land three to four kilometres from the rocket.
It is an uncomfortable ride for the astronauts, who experience an acceleration force of up to 10G when the escape rocket fires.
Hopefully, we won’t need to know too much more about that.
The Soyuz FG has an impeccable record of safety and reliability. Every launch since its first flight in 2001 has proved a complete success.