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Russia Launches Robotic Progress 66 Cargo Ship to Space Station

A Russian Soyuz rocket launches the automated Progress 66 cargo ship toward the International Space Station from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on Feb. 22, 2017. The spacecraft is carrying 3 tons of supplies for the space station crew.
A Russian Soyuz rocket launches the automated Progress 66 cargo ship toward the International Space Station from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on Feb. 22, 2017. The spacecraft is carrying 3 tons of supplies for the space station crew. (Image credit: RSC Energia)

The Russian space agency Roscosmos launched a robotic cargo ship early Wednesday (Feb. 22) on a mission to deliver fresh supplies to the International Space Station. 

The autonomous Progress 66 resupply ship launched into orbit atop a Soyuz rocket at 12:58 a.m. EST (0558 GMT), lifting off from a pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The cargo ship will arrive at the space station early Friday (Feb. 24). 

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"Liftoff of the 66th Progress resupply vehicle outbound to the International Space Station," NASA spokesman Rob Navias said during live commentary. 

The new spacecraft is due to dock itself at the station on Friday at 3:34 a.m. EST (0834 GMT). You can watch the Progress 66 docking live online, courtesy of NASA TV, beginning at 2:45 a.m. EST (0745 GMT). 

A Russian Soyuz rocket launches the automated Progress 66 cargo ship toward the International Space Station from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on Feb. 22, 2017 in this still from a NASA TV broadcast. (Image credit: NASA TV)

Progress 66 is Russia's first resupply mission to the space station since the loss of the Progress 65 cargo ship shortly after its launch on Dec. 1, 2016.

Wednesday's launch occurred just hours before another cargo ship, a SpaceX Dragon capsule, was due to arrive at the International Space Station. But the Dragon aborted its approach at a range of seven-tenths of a mile due to an incorrect value in the global positioning system software used to pinpoint the spacecraft's position relative to the space station, NASA officials said. 

The Dragon capsule will attempt another rendezvous on Thursday (Feb. 23), NASA officials added.

The International Space Station is currently stocked with supplies using a fleet of robotic spacecraft. In addition to Russia's Progress vehicles and SpaceX's Dragon capsules, the station is also resupplied by Orbital ATK's Cygnus spacecraft and Japan's H-2 Transfer Vehicles. SpaceX's Dragon and Orbital ATK's Cygnus are privately built spacecraft that resupply the space station under contracts with NASA.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.