Russian Cargo Ship Launches on Superfast Trip to Space Station

Update for 10:25 a.m. ET: The Progress 72 cargo ship successfully docked at the International Space Station.

A new Russian Progress cargo ship is chasing the International Space Station on a superfast delivery mission today (April 4) after a flawless liftoff atop its Soyuz rocket. 

The Soyuz launched the uncrewed supply ship Progress 72 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:01 a.m. EST (1101 GMT) to deliver more than 3.5 tons supplies to astronauts on the station. Progress 72 flew on a swift, two-orbit trajectory that brought it to the station at 10:22 a.m. EDT (1422 GMT), just under 3.5 hours after liftoff.

"This was a perfect launch, right on time," NASA spokesperson Rob Navias said during live commentary. "A flawless ascent." 

Related: How Russia's Progress Cargo Ships Work (Infographic)

A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying the uncrewed Progress 72 cargo ship launches toward the International Space Station on April 4, 2019 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. 

(Image: © NASA TV)

It's only the second time Russia's Roscosmos space agency has attempted the ultrafast delivery. Progress (and crewed Soyuz trips) used to take two days to reach the station, with Roscosmos cutting that transit time to six hours with a four-orbit trajectory.  

In July 2018, Roscosmos successfully performed the first two-orbit rendezvous with the launch of Progress 70.

The docking maneuver today occurred without issue, with Progress 72 making contact with the Pirs module a few minutes earlier than scheduled. "The docking was so soft and so smooth, we didn't feel anything at all," a translator reported one of the Russian cosmonauts telling mission control. "It was just perfect."

Progress 72 is packed with about 3.7 tons of supplies for the six Expedition 59 astronauts living on the International Space Station. That cargo includes 104 lbs. (47 kilograms) of oxygen and air; 926 lbs. (420 kg) of water; 3,117 lbs. (1,413 kg) of spare parts and other gear; and 3,375 lbs. (1,530 kg) of propellant. Among the dry cargo on Progress 72 are components to be used during a planned spacewalk by Expedition 59 astronauts on Monday (April 8). 

Russia's Progress 72 cargo ship lifts off atop a Soyuz rocket from Site 31 of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 4, 2019.

(Image: © Roscosmos)

The launch of Progress 72 kicks off a busy day in space today

At 10:15 a.m. EDT (1415 GMT), the Israeli moon lander Beresheet built by SpaceIL is scheduled to fire its engine to enter orbit around the moon. It is the first private moon lander mission to attempt a lunar landing, and Israel's first moon mission.  

Later, another Soyuz rocket - this one prepared by the European launch provider Arianespace - will lift off at 12:30 p.m. EDT (1630 GMT) from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana to deliver four O3b satellites to orbit for satellite communications  provider SES. 

NASA's Parker Solar Probe, the first spacecraft built to "touch the sun," will also make its second close flyby of our star today. The probe will pass through the outer atmosphere of the sun during the second of 24 close flybys of the sun to study how the star's atmosphere works. 

And finally, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Hayabusa2 spacecraft is scheduled to fire an impactor probe at the asteroid Ryugu to create an artificial crater on the space rock. That event is scheduled for 10:36 p.m. EDT (0236 April 5 GMT). 

Finally, the private spaceflight company SpaceX is expected to test fire the first stage rocket engines of its second Falcon Heavy rocket at NASA's Kennedy Space Center today in Cape Canaveral, Florida, according to Spaceflight Now

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom and Facebook. 

Have a news tip, correction or comment? Let us know at community@space.com.