The Progress M-18M cargo rocket blasted off Monday from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to take vital supplies to the six crewmembers on board the International Space Station, the Russian Roscosmos space agency announced.

The unmanned spacecraft was scheduled to dock with the Pirs module of the ISS at 2040 GMT, just six hours after liftoff.

This will be the third time in history that a Russian supply ship has docked with the ISS using the "rapid method" on a trip that will last only one-quarter as long as the normal 48-hour flights to the orbital platform.

In addition, this third rapid docking of a cargo ship will be the last experiment using the method before the next flight of the crewed Soyuz TMA-08M, which will use the faster method, too, and will depart for the ISS next month.

The cargo ship is carrying 2.6 tons of water, oxygen, food, fuel, equipment for scientific experiments and medicines. EFE