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Russia launches new Prichal module to International Space Station

A new Russian module is on its way to the International Space Station.

A Russian-built Soyuz rocket carrying a modified Progress cargo spacecraft and the new Prichal docking module lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday (Nov. 24) at 8:06 a.m. EST (1306 GMT).

"Liftoff! Twenty-three years and four days after the first module launched to the International Space Station, a new docking port takes flight," NASA spokesperson Rob Navias said during the agency's live broadcast. "It was a flawless ride to orbit."

The Progress will deliver Prichal to the orbiting lab on Friday (Nov. 26) at 10:26 a.m. EST (1526 GMT), when Prichal will dock autonomously with Russia's new Nauka multipurpose module, if all goes according to plan. You can watch all of that action here at Space.com courtesy of NASA, or directly via the space agency.

Related: International Space Station at 20: A photo tour 

Roscosmos launched the Prichal port module toward the International Space Station on Nov. 24, 2021. (Image credit: NASA TV)

The 4-ton, spherical Prichal (Russian for "pier") has about 494 cubic feet (14 cubic meters) of internal volume, according to RussianSpaceWeb.com. For comparison, SpaceX's Dragon cargo and crew capsules feature 328 cubic feet (9.3 cubic m) of pressurized volume.

Prichal sports six docking ports, one of which will link up with Nauka's Earth-facing port on Friday. The other five will be available for visiting spacecraft, helping to "expand the technical and operational capabilities of the orbital infrastructure of the Russian segment of the ISS," Russia's federal space agency, known as Roscosmos, wrote in an update recently.

Prichal could shape spaceflight beyond the ISS as well. Its applications include "testing architecture for potentially permanent settlements in space," according to RussianSpaceWeb.com, which notes that "it could also serve as a hub of [a] future new orbital base."

Prichal will be the second Russian module to arrive at the station in less than four months. Nauka reached the orbiting lab on July 29, and caused quite a stir when it did so. Nauka's thrusters fired in an unplanned fashion after docking, causing the ISS to rotate about 540 degrees

No damage was done in that case, but space station managers are doubtless hoping that Prichal's arrival is much less eventful.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook

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Mike Wall

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.