A Russian spacecraft blasted off Tuesday with a three-member crew to the International Space sation (ISS), Russia's Roscosmos space agency said. The spaceship carrying Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin and NASA's Kevin Ford was launched at 2.51pm from the Baikonur space centre in Kazakhstan.
A few minutes after the launch, the spacecraft separated from the third stage of the launch vehicle and reached the designated orbit, Xinhua quoted Roscosmos as saying. Novitsky will be the new commander of the ISS mission for the next five months.
The spaceship will dock at the ISS on Thursday, when the cosmonauts will join the current ISS crew: NASA's Sunita Williams, Russia's Yury Malenchenko and Japan's Akihiko Hoshide.
They will conduct over 50 scientific experiments, Roscosmos said.
After the retirement of the US shuttle fleet, Russia's Soyuz spacecraft is the only way for astronauts to reach the ISS at least until 2015.