A Soyuz rocket and Progress supply ship packed with nearly 3 tons of cargo, provisions and fuel for the International Space Station rolled out to a launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday.
The Progress MS-05 cargo freighter is set for liftoff Wednesday at 0558:33 GMT (12:58:33 a.m. EST; 11:58:33 a.m. Baikonur time) on a two-day trip to the space station.
The launch will be the last mission of the Soyuz-U version of Russia’s most-flown rocket. The Soyuz-U was a workhorse for the Russian space program, launching nearly 800 times with military spy satellites, cosmonaut crews and space station resupply missions to a series of Russian orbital outposts since 1973.
Newer versions of the expendable Soyuz booster are now flying with upgraded engines.
Wednesday’s launch will be the first Soyuz-U flight, and the first Progress cargo launch, since a rocket failure doomed a Russian resupply mission Dec. 1 on the way to the space station.
Russian investigators believe foreign object debris or a manufacturing defect in the third stage’s RD-0110 engine led the failure, which caused the Progress MS-04 spaceship to crash in Siberia downrange from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
“The most likely cause of the contingency was the third stage liquid oxygen tank opening as a result of exposure of (RD-0110) engine destruction elements that occurred (as a) result of fire, and further destruction of the oxidizer compound pump,” the Russian space agency, or Roscosmos, said in a Jan. 11 statement.
The oxidizer pump fire could have been caused by the introduction of foreign object debris into the pump cavity, or a violation of engine assembly procedures, Roscosmos said.
Engineers replaced the third stage RD-0110 engine on the Soyuz-U booster flying Wednesday with a powerplant from a different manufacturing batch after the inquiry discovered some engines produced by the same contractor were made with substandard alloys.
The automated Progress MS-05 cargo freighter, known as Progress 66P in the space station’s visiting vehicle manifest, will reach orbit around 8 minutes, 49 seconds, after liftoff Wednesday. Docking with the International Space Station’s Pirs module is set for 0834 GMT (3:34 a.m. EST) Friday.
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