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By Reuters

A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying a three-man international crew, including Britain's first official astronaut, Tim Peake, blasted off on Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The rocket carrying the Soyuz TMA-19M spaceship lifted off at 5:03 p.m. local time, beginning its six-hour journey to the International Space Station, and successfully reached its designated orbit about nine minutes later.

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As well as Peake, the crew includes commander Yuri Malenchenko, a former Russian Air Force pilot and a veteran of long-duration space flights, and NASA astronaut Tim Kopra.

Peake, 43, a former army major who is on a six-month mission for the European Space Agency, became the first Briton to go into space since Helen Sharman traveled on a Soviet spacecraft for eight days in 1991.

He is also the first astronaut officially representing the British government and wearing a Union Jack flag on his arm.

The same trio of Malenchenko, Kopra and Peake are set to return to Earth on June 5 next year.

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