Nasa astronauts blast off from from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to dock with the ISS

US and Russian space crew blast off to International Space Station

Launch comes amid tense diplomatic relations between Russia and the West

Harry Cockburn
Wednesday 21 March 2018 20:22

A rocket carrying two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut to the International Space Station has successfully lifted off from the Baikonur launchpad in Kazakhstan.

The rocket put their Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft in a designated orbit en route to the station, which it is due to dock at some point on Friday.

The crew are Roscosmos' cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev and Nasa astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold.

The blastoff comes as earthly diplomatic relations between Russia and the West are strained following the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, questions over Russia’s role in the 2016 US election, Russia’s role in the Syrian conflict, and a lukewarm international response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reelection.

The trio will join Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos, Scott Tingle of Nasa and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency who are already on board the station.

Additional reporting by PA

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