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Russia Soyuz spacecraft docks with International Space Station

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Media captionThe new crew members were all smiles as they came through the hatch

Russia's Soyuz spacecraft has docked successfully at the International Space Station (ISS).

The rocket, carrying a US astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts, blasted off from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday.

It was the first manned launch since an unmanned cargo rocket crashed shortly after launch in August.

The Soyuz is the only means of reaching the ISS after the US ended its shuttle programme earlier this year.

A spokesman for the Russian space agency said the Soyuz had docked with the ISS at 09:24 Moscow time (05:24 GMT).

"Everything went ahead normally," he said.

The crew - American Dan Burbank and Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin - went on to open the hatch and join the current crew of the ISS.

American Mike Fossum, Japan's Satoshi Furukawa and Russia's Sergei Volkov are due to return to Earth in December, while the new crew members will stay until March.

The BBC's Daniel Sandford in Moscow says the launch and progress of the Soyuz, designed in the 1960s, was a nervous moment for both Nasa and the Russians, after the failure of the Progress cargo rocket in August.

That crash, which Moscow said was an "isolated" glitch caused by a fuel pipe blockage - led to the human space flight programme being suspended.

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Media captionThe Soyuz spacecraft docks successfully

But with no other way of reaching the ISS, it was doubly important for the programme to succeed, says our correspondent.

A spokesman for US space agency Nasa said the Russian team had done a "tremendous job getting the launch and the docking ready".

Nasa ended its 30-year shuttle programme in July. The 16 nations investing in the $100bn International Space Station now rely solely on Russia to ferry crews.

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