A Soyuz space capsule has blasted off for the International Space Station, carrying an American astronaut making his first space flight and a veteran Russian cosmonaut.

NASA's Jack Fischer and Russia's Fyodor Yurchikhin lifted off from the Russia-leased launch facility in Kazakhstan at 3:13 ET on Thursday. They reached orbit about nine minutes later, a moment demonstrated when a small stuffed white dog hanging from a string in the capsule began to float.

They will travel six hours before docking at the space station.

Fischer and Yurchikhin will join a three-person crew under the command of NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who at 57 is the oldest woman to be in space. The others are Russia's Oleg Novitskiy and France's Thomas Pesquet.