ISS blast off
The International Space Station (ISS) crew of U.S. astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin blasts off from the launch pad at the Baikonur cosmodrome (Reuters) Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov

A team of three cosmonauts has knocked 45 hours off the normal travel time to the International Space Station, after reaching their destination in just six hours in the first-ever manned trip to the facility.

The new journey time would mean it would now be possible to reach the space station in less time than it takes to drive from London to Cornwall.

The trio of two Russian cosmonauts and one American astronaut blasted off from the Russian-run Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, making only four circumnavigations before docking, instead of the usual 30 orbits.

The new time was made possible by launching the Soyuz capsule just after the station passed directly above.

Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin, both from Russia, and American Chris Cassidy, are expected to spend five months aboard the station, having made the 1,000-mile trip.

"At first everybody was apprehensive but our ballistic specialists calculated the possibility and the Soyuz vehicle now has a command-and-control system and an onboard computer that can do pretty much anything," Vinogradov said.

The achievement provides a much-needed fillip to the Russian space programme after several failed launches over the past year.

Russia is now the only nation with the capability to transport cosmonauts to the space station, after Nasa retired its space shuttle.

The new journey time would eliminate the unpleasant effects of nausea that crew commonly suffer after four hours of space travel, meaning they would be in better shape on their arrival, said Vinogradov.

"With such a short time, the crew could even take an ice cream," he said. "It would not be able to melt."