BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AFP) - A Russian rocket carrying two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut blasted off successfully on Tuesday for the International Space Station.

Russia’s Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin and NASA’s Kevin Ford blasted off in a Soyuz TMA-06M space craft on schedule at 1051 GMT from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, an AFP correspondent said.

Russian state television showed live footage of the astronauts strapped into the cramped craft and reading instructions, with their mascot, a toy hippo with a “Russia” logo swinging above them.

“The launch of the piloted ship Soyuz TMA-06M took place at 1451 Moscow time,” the Russian space agency said in a statement.

“The Soyuz TMA-06M separated from the rocket’s third stage as scheduled and was brought into the correct orbit.”

The Soyuz spacecraft is due to dock with the ISS on Thursday at 1235 GMT.

The crew will join NASA’s Sunita Williams, Russia’s Yuri Malenchenko and Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide, who arrived in July and are due to leave in mid-November.

The trio had been set to blast off on October 15 but the lift-off was delayed due to the need to replace a piece of the on-board equipment. The astronauts are set to land back on Earth in March 2013.

The Russian cosmonauts are making their first journey into space, while flight engineer Ford flew to the ISS in 2009 on the US shuttle. He will take over command when Williams leaves in November.

Their time on the ISS will begin with a busy schedule since Russia is preparing to send a Progress supply ship to the ISS on October 31.