Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Russia launches supply craft to space station

Russia's Soyuz U rocket lifts a cargo craft to space today. (RSA)

An unmanned spacecraft filled with fresh supplies, fuel and hardware lifted off a top a Russian rocket today bound for the International Space Station.

Clear skies and warm temperatures favored the rocket's departure from western Kazakhstan.

The Progress M-11M supply craft -- loaded with nearly 2.6 tons of food, water and equipment, including supplies for NASA and Japan's astronauts -- lifted-off on time at 10:38 a.m. EDT (1438 GMT) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Launch occurred from the same traditional launch pad #1 which has supported most of the Russian Space Agency's manned and unmanned flights, including the first human space flight fifty years ago and the expedition crew's trip's to the space station.

The Progress craft, according to the Russian Space Agency, settled into an initial orbit of 120 x 149 miles.

The Progress M will orbit earth for two days as ground controllers steer the craft toward a docking, the first space craft docking to the space station at it's new altitude of 230 miles.

Progress will slowly guide itself in and dock to the Russian Zvezda module on Thursday at 12:37 p.m. (1637 GMT).

Aboard the orbiting lab are Russian cosmonauts commander Andrey Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyaev, Sergei Volkov, NASA astronauts Ron Garan and Mike Fossum, and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa.

During the docking phase, Samokutyaev and Volkov will monitor the Progress' progress with a computer program called Russian telerobotically operated rendezvous system or TORU.

The duo will use TORU to help pilot the craft in to dock if Progress' on board computer fails.

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