April 19, 2018

Russian supply ship poised for launch Wednesday

A Soyuz 2-1a rocket was rolled to the launch pad Monday at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: Roscosmos
A Soyuz 2-1a rocket was rolled to the launch pad Monday at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: Roscosmos

Continuing a busy week of comings and goings at the International Space Station, a Russian Progress supply ship is set for liftoff Wednesday from Kazakhstan with nearly 5,200 pounds of food, fuel and supplies for the six-person crew on the International Space Station.

Launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is set for 3:09:42 a.m. EDT (0709:42 GMT) Wednesday, or 1:09 p.m. local time at the Central Asia spaceport.

The liftoff from Kazakhstan will kick off a six-hour rendezvous with the international research complex, with docking to the station’s Pirs module at 9:09 a.m. EDT (1309 GMT).

The Russian supply ship will launch a few hours after a U.S. Cygnus commercial cargo carrier was expected to lift off from Virginia. The Orbital Sciences Cygnus spacecraft is due to arrive at the space station Nov. 2.

Two logistics spacecraft left the station earlier this week, with a SpaceX Dragon capsule departing Saturday and another Russian Progress undocking Monday.

The Progress M-25M cargo craft will launch aboard a Soyuz 2-1a rocket — the first time Russia will send up supplies to the space station on a modernized version of the venerable launcher.

The Soyuz 2-1a launcher uses updated electronics, a digital flight control system, and can loft 300 more kilograms — about 660 pounds — to the International Space Station’s orbit, according to Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency.

The upgrades also reduce the Soyuz rocket’s reliance on foreign parts, including components from Ukraine.

The Soyuz 2 rocket configuration has launched Russian military satellites and commercial payloads into orbit since it debuted in 2004. The upgraded Soyuz rockets are also launched from the European-run Guiana Space Center in South America.

Future Progress resupply freighters will launch on a mix of the new Soyuz 2-1a booster and a legacy configuration of the rocket called the Soyuz-U.

Two Progress missions to the space station next year will fly on the modernized rocket, along with one cargo delivery flight in 2016, according to Roscosmos.

Cosmonaut crews could launch on the new Soyuz 2-1a rocket once it is proven on cargo missions, officials said.

“After this, (it) will be possible to transfer launches manned spacecraft such as Soyuz on Soyuz 2-1a,” Roscosmos said on its website.

Wednesday’s supply mission will carry about 5,180 pounds of cargo to the space station.

The cargo manifest includes about 1,322 pounds of fuel to replenish propellant tanks on the space station’s Zvezda service module, plus more than 100 pounds of oxygen and air to revitalize the station’s atmosphere.

The Progress M-25M spaceship, also known as Progress 57P in the space station program’s flight sequence, also carries about 925 pounds of fresh water and 2,828 pounds of dry cargo inside the craft’s pressurized cabin.

The dry cargo will be unpacked by the space station’s crew.

The internal cargo complement includes food, hygiene and sanitary napkins, clothes, medical equipment, cameras, and science experiments, plus sets of tools, cables, and electronics for space station maintenance.

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