Russian Cargo Ship En Route to Space Station
A Progress 24 cargo ship launches towards the International Space Station atop A Russian Soyuz booster at 9:12 p.m. EST on Jan. 17.
Credit: RSC Energia.

An unmanned cargo ship carrying fresh supplies and the likeness of a Russian space legend rocketed spaceward late Wednesday to restock the International Space Station.

The Russian-built Progress 24 cargo ship began the two-day trip to the ISS at 9:12 p.m. EST (0212 Jan. 18 GMT) with a successful launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, NASA officials said in a statement.

The supply ship is carrying more than 2.5 tons of cargo to the station's three-astronaut Expedition 14 crew. Its flight follows the planned destruction of an older Russian spacecraft, Progress 22, that was jettisoned from the orbital laboratory on Tuesday [image].

Expedition 14 commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and flight engineers Mikhail Tyurin and Sunita Williams expect Progress 24 to dock at the space station's Russian-built Pirs docking compartment on Friday at 10:03 p.m. EST (0303 Jan. 20 GMT). NASA will broadcast the supply ship's automated arrival live via NASA TV.

NASA spokesperson Lynette Madison told before today's launch that the Progress 24 spacecraft included some new spacewalk supplies tucked amid the 3,285 pounds (1,490 kilograms) of dry cargo packed in its hold [image]. The cargo ship is also hauling 110 pounds of oxygen and 1,720 pounds (780 kilograms) of propellant to the ISS, as well as new, Japanese experiment hardware to aid a study in protein crystallization, Russia's Interfax News Agency has reported.

A portrait of Sergei Korolev -- who served as chief rocket designer for the former Soviet Union and led the nation's efforts to launch the first artificial satellite (Sputnik) and the first human (Yuri Gagarin) into orbit, also rode into space during Progress 24's launch [image].

Engineers affixed the image to the exterior of the spacecraft's Russian-built Soyuz rocket fairing to honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of Korolev, who died of a heart attack in 1966 at the age of 59.

Progress 24 will join an earlier unmanned cargo ship -- Progress 23 -- at the ISS. That older supply ship arrived last fall and remains docked at the aft end of the station's Zvezda service module.