A Russian cargo ship blasted into space Thursday to ferryfresh food, clothing and other vital supplies to astronauts aboard theInternational Space Station (ISS).
The unmanned Progress 26 spacecraft launched atop aRussian-built Soyuz rocket at about 1:34 p.m. EDT (1734 GMT) from BaikonurCosmodrome, Kazakhstan in Central Asia, according to Russian news reports. Tucked inside the space freighter'shold are more than 2.5 tons of supplies, which Progress 26 is expected deliverto the station's three-astronaut Expedition 15 crew during a planned Aug. 5rendezvous.
Progress 26 is due to arrive at the space station'sRussian-built Pirs docking compartment Sunday at about 2:38 p.m. EDT (1838GMT), NASA officials said.
Once docked, the station's Expedition 15 commander FyodorYurchikhin and flight engineers Oleg Kotov and Clayton Anderson will prepare tounload the some 5,111 pounds (2,318 kilograms) of supplies from the unmannedcargo ship.
Progress 26 is laden with 1,600 pounds (725 kilograms) ofpropellant, more than 100 pounds of oxygen and air, as well as over 496 pounds(224 kilograms) of water. The cargo ship is also packed with about 2,954 pounds(1,339 kilograms) of dry cargo, ranging from food and clothing to spare partsand science equipment.
Bob Dempsey, NASA's lead ISS flight director for Expedition15, said Progress 26 was also expected to haul new computers for the spacestation's Russian-built Zvezda service module. The new machines will be used toreplace some of six vital computers controlling the station's Russiannavigation and command systems, he said, adding that the repair could occurafter NASA's Endeavour shuttle crew arrives at the orbital laboratory nextweek.
The current Russian navigation and command system computersaboard the ISS crashedin June during NASA's STS-117 shuttle mission. The glitch shut down someRussian life support and navigation systems, leaving the station dependent on itsU.S. counterparts and the visiting Atlantis orbiter for attitude control. Yurchikhinand Kotov, working with engineers on Earth, developed a fix using jumper cablesto bypass faulty hardware within each of the six computers.
The Thursday launch of Progress 26 comes one day after theISS crew jettisoneda previous cargo ship, Progress 24, from the Pirs docking port to clear aberth for the incoming spacecraft. The Expedition 15 crew is also preparing towork with NASA's seven-astronaut STS-118 crew aboard the shuttle Endeavour,currently set to launch on Aug. 7, to continue ISS assembly.
Commanded by veteran shuttle flyer Scott Kelly, Endeavourwill haul even more cargo and spare parts to the ISS, as well as a newstarboard-side addition to the station's backbone-like main truss.
The up-to-14-day spaceflight will also mark the first flightof educatorastronaut Barbara Morgan, who served as backup for NASA's first Teacher inSpace Christa McAuliffe. McAuliffe and six NASA astronauts were aboard theChallenger orbiter when itbroke up just after launch in January 1986.
NASA will provide live video coverage of Progress 26's ISSarrival beginning at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) on Aug. 5 on NASA TV. Click here for SPACE.com's NASA TV feedand space station mission updates.
- VIDEO: Soyuz Away! Expedition 15 Crew, Tourist Launch Spaceward
- SPACE.com Video Interplayer: Space Station Power Up with STS-117
- Complete ISS Expedition Coverage