The Soyuz-FG carrier rocket with the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft was launched on Wednesday from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, heading for a five-month mission. The spacecraft, carrying Russia’s Aleksandr Misurkin, and NASA’s Mark Vande Hei and Joseph Acaba, has been successfully put into the designated orbit.
According to reports, the spacecraft's journey to ISS is expected to take six hours. However, the spacecraft is scheduled to dock with the Poisk module of the Russian section of the ISS at 5:57 Moscow time. The Soyuz crew will enter the orbital station between 7:40 and 8:10 Moscow time.
"The launch of the Soyuz-FG carrier rocket with the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft was performed at 00:17 Moscow time," a spokesman for the Russian space agency Roscosmos said.
This is the first time that two US astronauts have blasted off together on a mission to the ISS from Russia's Baikonur since June 2010.
Speaking at the pre-launch news conference on Monday, Acaba, who is of Puerto Rican heritage, said he would be taking some "musica Latina" on board to lift his crewmates' spirits.
"I can guarantee my crewmates they will not fall asleep during that music and if you want to dance at about 3 am tuned into our Soyuz capsule I think you'll enjoy it," he told journalists.
On Monday, Vande Hei left a note in a pre-launch tweet.
"L-2 days. Sunrise over Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Praying for the people of Florida as well as the continued recovery of the Texas Gulf Coast," he said.
The ISS orbits the Earth at a height of about 250 miles (400 kilometres), circling the planet every 90 minutes at a speed of about 17,500 miles (28,000 kilometres) per hour.