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Trio of astronauts in fast-track mission to International Space Station

For the first time, launch chiefs are trying a two-orbit, three-hour approach to the orbiting outpost.

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The Soyuz-2.1a rocket booster with the Soyuz MS-17 space ship blasts off (Roscosmos Space Agency/AP)

The Soyuz-2.1a rocket booster with the Soyuz MS-17 space ship blasts off (Roscosmos Space Agency/AP)

The Soyuz-2.1a rocket booster with the Soyuz MS-17 space ship blasts off (Roscosmos Space Agency/AP)

Three astronauts have blasted off for the International Space Station, using a fast-track manoeuvre to reach the orbiting outpost in just three hours.

Nasa’s Kate Rubins and Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos lifted off as scheduled at 10.45am local time (6.45am BST) from the Baikonur space launch facility in Kazakhstan for a six-month stint on the station.

For the first time, launch chiefs are trying a two-orbit, three-hour approach to the orbiting outpost.

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A rocket booster carrying the Soyuz MS-17 space ship blasts off at Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (Roscosmos Space Agency/AP)

A rocket booster carrying the Soyuz MS-17 space ship blasts off at Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (Roscosmos Space Agency/AP)

AP/PA Images

A rocket booster carrying the Soyuz MS-17 space ship blasts off at Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (Roscosmos Space Agency/AP)

Previously it took twice as long for the crews to reach the station.

The trio will join the station’s Nasa commander, Chris Cassidy, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, who have been aboard the complex since April and are scheduled to return to Earth a week later.

Speaking during a pre-launch news conference at Baikonur, Ms Rubins emphasized that the crew spent weeks in quarantine at the Star City training facility outside Moscow and then on Baikonur to avoid any threat from the coronavirus.

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