Russian Cargo Ship Begins Trip to Space Station
A Soyuz rocket stands poised to launch the Progress 21 cargo ship towards the International Space Station in an April 24, 2006 launch.
Credit: RSC Energia.

A Russian cargo ship packed with new equipment, fresh food, golf tools and crustaceans blasted into space Monday on a two-day trek to the International Space Station (ISS).

The unmanned - but not lifeless - Progress 21 supply ship rocketed into orbit atop a Russian-built Soyuz booster at 12:03 p.m. EDT (1603 GMT) from its Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Central Asia's Kazakhstan.

"The launch was a standard one," a spokesperson for Russia's Federal Space Agency told the Interfax News Agency just after liftoff.

Progress 21 is delivering more than 2.5 tons of food, water, new science equipment and spare parts to the space station, where ISS Expedition 13 commander Pavel Vinogradov and flight engineer Jeffrey Williams are awaiting the space freighter's arrival. The spacecraft is expected to dock at the ISS on April 26.

About 5,040 pounds (2,286 kilogram) of cargo sit inside Progress 21, including 661 pounds (299 kilograms) of water, over 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of air and oxygen, and almost 2,360 pounds (1,070 kilograms) of dry supplies. More than 1,900 pounds (861 kilograms) of propellant to maneuver the space station is also aboard the spacecraft.

The space freighter also included a batch of crustaceans as part of an experiment dubbed Aquarium, which is aimed at studying the stability of closed ecological systems in station's microgravity environment, NASA officials said, adding that the experiment could provide information and insights for future long-duration space missions.

About 26 pounds (12 kilograms) of fresh vegetables, fruits and melted cheeses are also on Progress 21's cargo manifest, along with new movies, music CDs, books, Russia's Federal Space Agency said.

Rounding out Progress 21's supply shipment are a golf tee and bag for a club and ball already in orbit, which Vinogradov is expected to use during an upcoming spacewalk as part of an agreement between the Federal Space Agency and Canada-based Element 21 Golf Co., NASA said.

Russian flight controllers piped coverage of the Progress 21 launch up to Vinogradov via a radio link during the space shot. On Tuesday, Vinogradov will begin working with the Telerobotically Operated Rendezvous Unit (TORU) inside the station's Russian-built Zvezda module. TORU is a backup system that will allow Vinogradov to take control of Progress 21 remotely in case its automated docking system fails.

Progress 21 is scheduled to dock at the aft end of the space station's Zvezda service module at 1:40 p.m. EDT (1740 GMT) on April 26.

A previous cargo ship - Progress 20 - is also docked at the ISS after a Dec. 23, 2005 arrival at the station's Russian-built Pirs docking compartment. It will discarded in mid-June, NASA officials said.

NASA TV will broadcast the Progress 21's final ISS approach and docking live beginning at 1:00 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT). You are invited to follow along with the cargo ship's docking using SPACE.com's NASA TV feed by clicking here.