BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan, Dec 15 (Reuters) - A Soyuz rocket carrying a Russian, an American and a Briton blasted off on Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in a smooth launch en route to the International Space Station.
The rocket carrying the Russian Soyuz TMA-19M spaceship lifted off at 5:03 p.m. local time (1103 GMT) to start its six-hour journey, and successfully reached its designated orbit about nine minutes later.
The previous crew, sent in September, had to take a longer, two-day trip due to the position of the $100 billion station at the time. Soyuz will dock with the ISS at around 1723 GMT on Tuesday.
The crew consists of commander Yuri Malenchenko, a former Russian Air Force pilot and a veteran of long-duration space flights, NASA astronaut Tim Kopra and Briton Tim Peake.
Peake, 43, a former army major who is on a six-month mission for the European Space Agency (ESA), became the first Briton to go into space since Helen Sharman traveled on a Sovietspacecraft for eight days in 1991.
He is also the first astronaut officially representing the British government and wearing a Union Jack flag on his arm.
Peake smiled and looked very confident as he prepared to board the spacecraft. He was seen off by his family after going through all the Baikonur pre-launch rituals, such as signing his hotel door and receiving a blessing from an Orthodox priest.
Most of these traditions, such as watching "White Sun of the Desert," a 1970 Soviet action film, on the eve of a launch, date back to the early years of space exploration. Even the launch pad used for manned flights has remained the same since Yuri Gagarin's first mission in 1961.
Peake's mission, called Principia after Isaac Newton's seminal work, includes a number of scientific experiments such as testing the use of nitric oxide gas as a tool to monitor lung inflammation.
Malenchenko, Kopra and Peake are set to return to Earth on June 5 next year.
(Reporting by Shamil Zhumatov, Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Dmitry Solovyov and Mark Trevelyan)
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