Just a week before the shuttle Discoveryarrives at the International Space Station for its construction mission, aRussian resupply ship has launched to deliver a load of equipment, fuel andprovisions to the orbiting science laboratory.
Liftoff of the cargo freighter atop a Soyuzbooster from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan occurred at 11:11 a.m. EDT(1511 GMT) yesterday (Oct. 27). [Photo of the dazzling Progress 40 cargo shiplaunch]
The preliminary orbitwas achieved after a nine-minute ascent provided by the three-stage rocket,and onboard commands were issued to unfurl the craft's communications andnavigation antennas and extend two power-generating solar arrays that span 35feet.
A series of precise engine firings over thenext three days will guide the Progress toward an automated rendezvous with thestation. The docking is slated for Saturday at 12:39 p.m. EDT (1639 GMT).
The 24-foot long ship will attach itself tothe open port on the Pirs compartment, which was vacated Monday when a previousProgress was jettisoned.
Today's launch was known in the station'sassembly matrix as Progress mission 40P. The spacecraft's formal Russiandesignation is Progress M-08M.
The craft will bring two-and-a-half tons ofsupplies to the station. The "dry" cargo tucked aboard the Progressamounts to 2,804 pounds in the form of food, spare parts, life support gear andexperiment hardware.
The refueling module carries 1,918 pounds ofpropellant for transfer into the Russian segment of the complex to feed thestation's maneuvering thrusters. The vessel also has 498 pounds of water and1,100 pounds of oxygen.
It'll remain attached to the station throughmid-January.
The space station is staffed by theExpedition 25 crew of commander Doug Wheelock, fellow NASA astronautsShannon Walker and Scott Kelly, and Russian cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin,Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka.
The cosmonauts will be standing by Saturdayto take over manual control of the approaching Progress spacecraft if theautopilot experiences a problem. They will spend time this week checking outthe backup system.
After the Progress arrives, the station crewwill turn its focus to the upcomingspace shuttle mission.
Discovery is scheduled to launch from KennedySpace Center in Florida on Monday at 4:40 p.m. EDT. The shuttle will dock withthe station next Wednesday to install the Permanent Multipurpose Module and anexternal equipment carrier.
You can follow along with Discovery's launchcountdown and flight in our MissionStatus Center.
This Progressfreighter timeline shows the key events scheduled from launch untildocking:
- Images- Space Shuttle Discovery's Midnight Launch
- Gallery: Shuttle Discovery's Last Launch Pad Trip
- Wantto See Space Shuttle Discovery's Last Hurrah? Here's How
SPACE.com is providing complete coverage ofthe last voyage of space shuttle Discovery. Click here for mission updates,new stories and a link to NASA's live webcast coverage.
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