A trio of space travelers blasted off to the International Space Station on Wednesday, using for the first time a fast-track maneuver that allowed them to reach the orbiting outpost in a little more than three hours.

NASA’s Kate Rubins along with Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, lifted off as scheduled Wednesday from the Russia-leased Baikonur space launch facility in Kazakhstan for a six-month stint at the station.

For the first time, they tried a two-orbit approach and docked with the space station in a little more than three hours after liftoff. Previously it took twice as long for crews to reach the station.

They were welcomed by the station’s commander, NASA’s Chris Cassidy, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, who have been aboard the complex since April and are scheduled to return to Earth in a week.

Speaking during Tuesday’s prelaunch news conference at Baikonur, Rubins emphasized that the crew spent weeks in quarantine at the training facility outside Moscow, Russia, and then on Baikonur to avoid any threat from the coronavirus.

Rubins said she was looking forward to scientific experiments planned for the mission.

“We’re planning to try some really interesting things like bio-printing tissues and growing cells in space and, of course, continuing our work on sequencing DNA,” Rubins said.

Ryzhikov, who will be the station’s skipper, said the crew will try to pinpoint the location in the station’s Russian section that has slowly leaked oxygen. The small leak hasn’t posed any immediate danger to the crew.

“We will take with us additional equipment which will allow us to detect the place of this leak more precisely,” he told reporters. “We will also take with us additional improved hermetic material, which will allow to fix the leak.”

In November, Rubins, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov are expected to greet NASA’s SpaceX first operational Crew Dragon mission, which is bringing NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon vehicle. It follows a successful Demo-2 mission earlier this year.

The Crew Dragon mission was pushed back from October 31 into November, and no new date has been set. The delay is intended to give SpaceX more time to conduct tests and review data from an aborted Falcon 9 launch earlier this month.

— Associated Press