An unmannedRussian cargo ship launched into orbit Wednesday crammed with fresh suppliesfor astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
The Progress29 space freighter successfully lifted off atop a Russian-built Soyuz rocket at4:22 p.m. EDT (2022 GMT) from the central Asian spaceport of BaikonurCosmodrome in Kazakhstan to begin a two-day trek. The cargo ship is due to dockat the space station on Friday, where the outpost?s three-man crew is eagerlyawaiting its arrival.
?TheProgress 29 spacecraft is carrying to the crew the usual manifest of clothing,supplies and other cargo, which they are definitely looking forward to,? saidNASA spokesperson Josh Byerly of the agency?s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Thespacecraft launched on time and reached orbit 10 minutes later, NASA officials toldSPACE.com. It is scheduled to dock at an Earth-facing port on thestation?s Russian-built Zarya control module at about 5:30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT)on Friday.
Progress29, known by the designation M-64 in Russia, is hauling more than two tons ofsupplies to the space station for Expedition 17 commander Sergei Volkov and flightengineers Oleg Kononenko and Garrett Reisman. Tucked inside the spacecraft?s cargohold are 770 pounds (350 kg) of propellant for the station?s thrusters, morethan 100 pounds (45 kg) of oxygen and air, as well as 925 pounds (420 kg) ofwater, NASA officials said.
Thespacecraft is also carrying about 2,850 pounds (1,292 kg) of dry supplies,which Russia?s Federal Space Agency has said includes about 568 pounds (258 kg)of food, 277 pounds (126 kg) of medicine and 282 pounds (128 kg) of hygieneitems, according to the country?s Interfax News Agency.
A contingentof 90 snails is also making the trip to the space station as part of anexperiment to study the effects of weightless on living organisms, Interfaxreported.
In atelevised interview earlier this week, Volkov said that he and his crew arelooking forward to Progress 29?s arrival. He spent some of his time workingwith a remote docking system that would allow him to take control of theProgress freighter should its own automated rendezvous systems fail.
Russia?s disposableProgress cargo ships are similar in appearance to the country?s three-segmentSoyuz spacecraft that ferry new astronaut crews to and from the spacestation every six months. But unlike the Soyuz, Progress freighters are ultimatelyfilled with trash or other unneeded items and jettisoned to burn up in theEarth?s atmosphere at the end of their missions.
Volkov andhis crew are also preparing for the early June arrival of NASA?s space shuttleDiscovery, which is currently slated to dock June 2 to delivera new Japanese laboratory the size of a school bus.
Discoveryand its seven-astronaut crew are slatedto launch toward the station on May 31.
NASAwill provide live coverage of Progress 29?s space station arrival on NASA TVbeginning at about 5:00 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT). Click here for SPACE.com?s spacestation mission updates, live coverage and NASA TV feed.
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