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Revamped Soyuz readied for launch

A revamped digital version of the venerable Russian Soyuz spacecraft has been winched into place at a launch pad for its second manned run to the International Space Station.

The Soyuz TMA-02M craft was slowly carried on a flatbed train shortly after daybreak on Sunday from a hangar to its launch pad in Baikonur, a Russian-leased facility deep inside the territory of Kazakhstan.

A crew comprising Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, NASA's Michael Fossum, and Satoshi Furukawa of Japan's JAXA space agency is primed to blast off for a six-month stint onboard the orbiting laboratory this week.

With the US shuttle due to make its farewell voyage in July, the Russian craft takes on renewed importance as the only available lifeline to the space station.

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