16 Jul 2012

Space station crew aboard Russian rocket

5:54 am on 16 July 2012

A Soyuz spaceship carrying Russian, Japanese and United States astronauts blasted off for the International Space Station on Sunday.

The three crew will join six others already on board the space station.

The capsule took off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2.40pm. It is scheduled to dock with the Russian-operated Rassvet module on Tuesday at 5:52 GMT.

Sunita Williams from the US and Akihiko Hoshide of Japan already have experience aboard the ISS, but had never before travelled on the Soyuz.

Their fellow crew member is Yury Malenchenko.

Roscosmos officials hope a successful mission will help to restore confidence in the Russian space programme after a series of launch mishaps last year, including the failure of a mission to return samples from the Martian moon Phobos.