Russia launches space station cargo ship

A Soyuz 2.1a rocket blasts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome carrying a Progress cargo ship loaded with 5,500 pounds of equipment, supplies and propellant bound for the International Space Station. Image: NASA TV.

A Russian Progress cargo ship loaded with more than 5,500 pounds of supplies and equipment bound for the International Space Station blasted off from Kazakhstan early Friday, kicking off a two-day orbital chase.

Perched atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket, the Progress MS-25/86P spacecraft took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 4:25 a.m. EST (2:25 p.m. local time) and slipped into the planned preliminary orbit eight minutes and 45 seconds later.

The Progress then separated, spread its solar wings and set off after the space station in the first stages of a two-day 34-orbit rendezvous. If all goes well, the spacecraft will catch up with the lab complex early Sunday, guiding itself into a docking at the Russian space-facing Poisk module around 6:15 a.m.

The space freighter is delivering 3,423 pounds of spare parts, other equipment and supplies, 88 pounds of nitrogen, 926 pounds of water and 1,135 pounds of propellant used to help maintain the station’s orbit.

The Progress launching was the first of two and possibly three flights to orbit Friday.

SpaceX plans to launch South Korea’s 425 Project satellite from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 1:19 p.m. EST. The domestically produced optical-infrared reconnaissance satellite will be followed by four imaging radar spacecraft next year to keep closer tabs on possible military activity in North Korea.

SpaceX is also thought to be gearing up to launch another set of Starlink internet satellites late Friday from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. If both missions get off the ground, they will mark the company’s 90th and 91st Falcon 9 flights so far this year.