Five new CubeSats being developed in Taiwan, Vietnam and the United States are hoping to fly during 2013.
The rocket carrying Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko RN3DX, Nasa astronaut Don Pettit KD5MDT and the European Space Agency’s Andre Kuipers PI9ISS lifted off under freezing conditions at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The crew, who will stay at the International Space Station until March, are on a mission to bring the station back up to full manpower after an August cargo launch accident disrupted flights.
The all-veteran crew is scheduled to reach the orbital outpost at 1522 GMT on Friday. They will join station commander Dan Burbank and two Russian cosmonauts who arrived last month, bringing the complex back to its full staff of six.
With the space shuttles’ retirement, Nasa is dependent on Russia to fly crews to the station, a service that currently costs the United States about $350 million (£222 million) a year.
The station, a $100 billion project of the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada, is a multi-purpose research laboratory for biology, physics, astronomy and other studies that orbits about 240 miles above Earth.