Friday, January 28, 2011

Russian cargo craft en route to space station

Russia launched an unmanned cargo craft to the International Space Station on Thursday evening loaded with supplies, including a small satellite and birthday presents for the commander.

Items such as a mini satellite, fuel, water, oxygen, and science experiments were included aboard the Progress M-09M craft.

A mini satellite known as the Earth Artificial Satellite, nicknamed “Kedr", measures 21.7 x 21.7 x 15.7 inches, and will be the first of several planned small satellites to be placed in earth orbit by cosmonauts during a spacewalk.

"It is designed to transmit 25 greeting messages in 15 different languages, earth photos, and telemetry data for its scientific equipment and service systems," Russian officials stated on earlier.

The 66 pound box satellite was named Kedr after Russia's first man in space, Yuri Gagarin's call sign he used.

Kedr will be "launched" during a six hour spacewalk by cosmonauts Skripochka and Kondratievon on February 16.

"Several books, magazines, sweets were loaded into the Progress for Russians Alexander Kaleri, Dmitry Kondratiev and Oleg Skripocka," the Russian Space Agency stated Tuesday. "Books by famous Russian space exploration founder Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, sent by his grandson Sergey Samburov" will also be on board.

Even a few birthday gifts flew into space which the Russian cosmonauts are scheduled to deliver to their station commander, Scott Kelly.

Kelly will celebrate his 47th birthday in February, and the package includes a note which reads “Not to open till Feb. 21”.

The Progress craft aboard a Soyuz U rocket lifted-off on time at 8:31:39 pm EST, tonight (0131 GMT on Friday), from pad 1 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in western Kazakhstan.

The Progress will spend two days in a lower orbit of that of the space station as it automatically flies up to and docks with the Russian Pirs module on Saturday evening at 9:40 pm (0240 GMT on Sunday).

This weekend's Progress docking will mark the third major event for the station crew in eight days.

A five hour Russian spacewalk last Friday and a Japanese cargo craft which was captured by the station's robotic arm and docked to the Harmony module on Thursday have kept the six member crew busy.

Crew members Cady Coleman and Paolo Nespoli round out the station's Expedition 26 crew.

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