A Soyuz rocket carrying a veteran American astronaut, a French newcomer and a Russian cosmonaut has blasted off for the International Space Station.

The crew of NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, Russia's Oleg Novitskiy and France's Thomas Pesquet lifted off as scheduled from the Russia-leased launch facility in Kazakhstan at 2:20 a.m. on Friday (2020 GMT, 4:20 p.m. Thursday).

Whitson who will celebrate her 57th birthday in February on the International Space Station could become the oldest woman in space, adding to her long list of barrier-breaking records. This will be the third ISS mission for Whitson, an Iowa-born biochemist, and her second stint as commander.

Whitson is riding the Soyuz with the 45-year-old experienced Russian cosmonaut and the French astronaut who is making his maiden flight into space.