MOSCOW - A Soyuz spacecraft carrying a Russian, an American, and a Dutchman to the International Space Station blasted off flawlessly from Russia's launch facility in Kazakhstan on Wednesday.
Mission commander Oleg Kononenko and his colleagues, American Don Pettit and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers, are to dock with the space station on Friday.
The blastoff from the snowy launchpad in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, took place without a hitch and the spacecraft reached Earth orbit about nine minutes later.
Video from inside the craft showed the three crew members gripping each others' hands in celebration as the final stage of the booster rocket separated.
The three aboard the Russian spacecraft will join three others already on the International Space Station, NASA's Dan Burbank and Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin. The six are to work together on the station until March.
The launch came amid a period of trouble for Russia's space program, which provides the only way for crew to reach the space station since the United States retired its space shuttle program in July.
The launch of an unmanned supply ship for the space station failed in August, and the ship crashed in a Siberian forest.
The Soyuz rocket carrying that craft was the same type used to send up Russian manned spacecraft, and the crash prompted officials to postpone the next manned launch while the rockets were examined for flaws. The delayed mission eventually took place on Nov. 14.