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After a picture-perfect launch into orbit Friday morning, a cargo delivery ship docked with the International Space Station early on Sunday morning, providing relief from the crew's recent supply woes.

String of failures snapped as supply run docks with ISS


Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Monday, July 6, 2015, 3:25 PM - After a picture-perfect launch into orbit Friday morning, a cargo delivery ship docked with the International Space Station early on Sunday morning, providing relief from the crew's recent supply woes.

At 12:55 a.m. EDT, Friday, July 3 - 10:55 a.m. local time at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan - the Russian Space Agency launched Progress 60, the latest cargo delivery to the International Space Station.

Broadcast live via Roscosmos and NASA TV, liftoff of the Progress M-28M cargo vessel, which was perched atop an older Russian Soyuz-U launch vehicle, went off perfectly. After roughly 10 minutes, with a smooth, nominal flight into orbit, the spacecraft separated from the final stage of the rocket, successfully deployed its solar panels and communications antennas and was on its way for a two-day trip around the Earth for a Sunday morning rendezvous with the ISS.


Courtesy: Roscosmos and NASA TV

String of failures

This latest cargo delivery follows two failed attempts in a row, one by the Russians on April 28, and another earlier this week - on June 28 - by private spaceflight company, SpaceX. Last year, on October 29, another cargo delivery, this time an Antares rocket run by Orbital Sciences Corp., exploded just seconds after liftoff.

The space station is well stocked with food and fuel, to handle just these kinds of problems and delays in restocking. However, after two failures in a row, there was some worry that - should this one fail as well - it could put a strain on the crew's resources before SpaceX's next launch, which was scheduled for early September.

Tried and true


Progress 60 atop a Soyuz-U rocket.
Credit: Roscosmos and NASA TV

With the April failure of Progress 59 (also known as Progress M-27M), the problem with the launch occurred when the spacecraft attempted to separate from the third stage of the new Russian Soyuz 2-1A rocket that carried it into space. A malfunction during the separation put Progress 59 into a tumble that it could not recover from, and after roughly 10 days of uncontrolled orbit around the planet, it plunged into the atmosphere and burned up somewhere over the south Pacific.

To avoid the possibility of a similar problem on this attempt, Roscosmos sent Progress 59 into orbit via an older - but tried, tested and true - Soyuz-U rocket. While the newer Soyuz 2-1A would have had the cargo ship reach the ISS in just 6 hours, a Soyuz-U launch puts Progress 60 on a 2-day orbital path around the Earth.

Update, July 6, 2015: According to the blog of the space station -

Traveling about 251 miles over the south Pacific, southeast of New Zealand, the unpiloted ISS Progress 60 Russian cargo ship docked at 3:11 a.m. EDT to the Pirs Docking Compartment of the International Space Station.
The craft is delivering more than three tons of food, fuel and supplies, including 1,940 pounds of propellant, 106 pounds of oxygen, 926 pounds of water, and 3,133 pounds of spare parts, supplies and experiment hardware for the members of the Expedition 44 crew currently living and working in space. Progress 60 is scheduled to remain docked to Pirs for the next four months.

Sources: NASA | NASA Spaceflight

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