Soyuz launches from Kazakhstan with space station supply ship

A Soyuz-2.1a rocket lifts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with the 75h Progress supply ship for the International Space Station. Credit: Roscosmos

A Soyuz rocket decorated to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe fired into space Friday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, sending a Progress supply ship on a fast-track, three-hour pursuit of the International Space Station.

The Soyuz-2.1a booster ignited its kerosene-fueled engines at climbed away from Launch Pad No. 31 at Baikonur at 9:51:41 p.m. EDT Friday (0151 GMT Saturday) to kick off a nine-minute climb into orbit.

Liftoff occurred at 6:51 a.m. Baikonur time Saturday, and the Soyuz arced into clear skies toward the northeast over the barren Kazakh steppe.

The Soyuz-2.1a rocket was adorned with markings and the number “75” on its payload shroud, signifying the launch occurred on the 75th anniversary of the meeting of U.S. and Soviet troops on the Elbe River in Germany in the final days of World War II in Europe.

The number has a double significance because the cargo mission is the 75th Progress resupply flight to the International Space Station since 2000.

The Soyuz launch was timed less than a minute before the space station soared directly over the historic Central Asia spaceport, putting the Progress cargo freighter on course to dock with the orbiting research outpost less than three-and-a-half hours later.

The Progress MS-14 supply ship separated from the Soyuz rocket’s third stage around nine minutes into the flight. Seconds later, the automated cargo carrier unfurled navigation antennas and power-generating solar arrays.

A series of thruster firings put the Progress MS-14 in position to begin a final approach to the space station around three hours after launch. The radar-guided rendezvous culminated in a link-up with the rear port of the space station’s Zvezda service module at 1:12 a.m. EDT (0512 GMT).

The Progress MS-14 spacecraft’s pressurized compartment is packed with nearly 3,000 pounds (1,350 kilograms) of dry cargo, including food, medicine, sanitary and hygienic materials, and equipment for space station systems.

The supply ship also carries around 1,543 pounds (700 kilograms) of propellant for transfer into the station’s Zvezda module propulsion system, 926 pounds (420 kilograms) of water, and around 110 pounds (50 kilograms) of compressed air to replenish the station’s breathable atmosphere.

After docking, the three-man space station crew will open hatches to the Progress supply ship and begin unpacking the spacecraft’s pressurized cabin. The Progress MS-14 spacecraft is scheduled to remain docked at the station through late 2020, when it will depart with trash and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere for destruction over the South Pacific Ocean.

The arrival of the space station’s next Progress supply shipment occurred a week after the departure of the research lab’s last crew. Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and NASA crewmates Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan landed in Kazakhstan on April 17, leaving veteran NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy in command of the International Space Station.

Cassidy and his Russian crewmates — Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner — launched April 9 for their long-duration expedition on the station, expected to last more than six months.

A Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft that arrived at the space station in February is scheduled to depart the orbiting complex May 11. Like the Progress, the Cygnus freighter will carry trash away from the station and burn up in the atmosphere.

A Japanese HTV cargo ship is scheduled for launch May 20 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. Loaded with several tons of experiments and a fresh set of solar array batteries, the HTV cargo carrier is due to arrive at the space station May 25.

Then SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship is set for its first launch with astronauts as soon as May 27 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will fly aboard the Crew Dragon, with docking at the space station set for May 28 to begin a mission lasting several months.

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