Rocket with astronauts from NASA and Russia blasts off from Kazakhstan days after launch dramatically aborted

A rocket taking astronauts from the US, Russia and Belarus to the International Space Station has successfully blasted off - days after its launch was dramatically aborted with seconds to spare.

The Russian Soyuz rocket launched smoothly from the Baikonur facility in Kazakhstan on Saturday.

Its space capsule, carrying NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson, Russian Oleg Novitsky and Marina Vasilevskaya of Belarus, successfully detached and entered orbit eight minutes later.

The capsule is set to complete a 34-orbit journey over the next two days in order to dock at the International Space Station, on Monday afternoon.

The launch was initially planned for Thursday but was halted by an automatic safety system about 20 seconds before the scheduled lift-off.

The head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Yuri Borisov, said a sudden voltage drop in a power source had triggered the safety system to abort the launch.

If the launch had gone ahead as scheduled on Thursday, the journey would have been much shorter, requiring only two orbits.

The three astronauts are set to join the station's crew, consisting of NASA astronauts Loral O'Hara, Matthew Dominick, Mike Barratt, and Jeanette Epps, as well as Russian astronauts Oleg Kononenko, Nikolai Chub, and Alexander Grebenkin.

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Novitsky, Vasilevskaya and O'Hara are set to return to Earth on 6 April.

The space station, which has served as a symbol of post-Cold War international cooperation, is now one of the last remaining areas of collaboration between Russia and the West.

NASA and its partners hope to continue operating the orbiting outpost until 2030.