Russian Cargo Ship Launches on Halloween Mission to Space Station

Progress 49 Cargo Ship Lifts Off
Russia's robotic Progress 49 cargo ship lifts off on Oct. 31, 2012, carrying 2.9 tons of supplies to the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA TV)

A robotic Russian cargo vessel blasted off today (Oct. 31), carrying nearly 3 tons of supplies on a Halloween delivery mission to the International Space Station.

The unmanned Progress 49 spacecraft launched from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome at 3:41 a.m. EDT (0741 GMT) today and is slated to arrive at the orbiting lab six hours later. You can watch the rendezvous and docking activities live here on NASA TV, beginning at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT).

Progress 49 is toting 2.9 tons of supplies, including 2,050 pounds (930 kilograms) of propellant, 926 pounds (420 kg) of water, 62 pounds (28 kg) of oxygen and 2,738 pounds (1,242 kg) of spare parts, NASA officials said. There's no word yet on whether any candy corn or miniature chocolate bars made it onboard to help the space station's six astronauts celebrate the season.

Life on orbit is always busy, but this week is particularly jam-packed for station crew.

For example, today's launch comes just three days after SpaceX's unmanned Dragon capsule left the station, wrapping up the first-ever commercial cargo mission to the $100 billion orbiting complex. Dragon splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the Baja California coast on Sunday afternoon (Oct. 28).

Dragon will make at least 11 more flights to the station under a $1.6 billion contract that California-based SpaceX signed with NASA. Its next launch is currently scheduled for January, agency officials have said.

Dragon is unique in its ability to ferry hardware, supplies and scientific experiments both to and from the space station. All other cargo craft currently operating — including Russia's Progress ships — carry supplies to the orbiting lab but burn up upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere.

Shortly after welcoming Progress 49 to the station, crewmembers will turn their attention to another task. NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, commander of the orbiting complex's current Expedition 33 mission, and Japanese colleague Akihiko Hoshide will perform a spacewalk Thursday morning (Nov. 1).

Beginning at 8:15 a.m. EDT (1215 GMT) Thursday, Williams and Hoshide will venture to the port side of the station's backbone-like truss to repair an ammonia leak in a radiator. The spacewalk should take about 6 1/2 hours, NASA officials said.

Follow senior writer Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall or @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.