Fresh Russian Cargo Ship Bound for ISS
A Russian Soyuz rockets launches the unmanned Progress 23 cargo ship towards the International Space Station from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Oct. 23, 2006.
Credit: RSC Energia.

A freighter packed with fresh supplies and critical repair parts for the International Space Station successfully rocketed away from Earth today and immediately began plotting a three-day trek to the orbiting outpost.

The Russian Progress M-58 spacecraft lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9:41 a.m. EDT (1341 GMT) aboard a three-stage Soyuz booster.

The 24-foot (seven-meter) long ship, known in the station's assembly matrix as Progress mission 23P, reached its preliminary orbit nine minutes after liftoff and separated from the launcher's spent upper stage.

Onboard commands extended the Progress craft's two power-generating solar arrays that span 35 feet (10 meters) and unfurled communications and navigation antennas.

A series of precise engine firings over the next three days will guide the Progress into the station's orbit for the automated docking at 10:28 a.m. EDT (1428 GMT) Thursday. It will link up with the usual Progress parking spot at the station -- the Zvezda service module's aft port.

The cargo craft is loaded with 4,812 pounds (2,182 kilograms) of supplies. The "dry" cargo amounts to 2,784 pounds (1,262 kilograms) in the form of spare parts, repair gear, life support and equipment hardware. The payload includes repair parts for the Russian Elektron oxygen-generation system, which has been shut down since last month.

The refueling module carries 1,918 pounds (869 kilograms) of propellant for transfer into the Russian segment of the station to feed the outpost's maneuvering thrusters.

To replenish the station's oxygen supply, the Progress is bringing 110 pounds (49 kilograms) of oxygen.

The International Space Station is occupied by the Expedition 14 crew of commander Mike Lopez-Alegria and flight engineers Mikhail Tyurin and Thomas Reiter. Lopez-Alegria and Tyurin are beginning their second month on the complex, while Reiter has been there since July.

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