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Progress supply ship flies to ISS hours after U.S. launch disaster

Paul Sutherland, Feature writer
Oct 29, 2014, 17:46 UTC, Updated Oct 29, 2014, 21:23 UTC

Sen—Just hours after the spectacular failure of a Cygnus launch by an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket, another cargo ship blasted off successfully from the other side of the Earth, en route for the International Space Station.

Russia’s Progress M-25M spacecraft was loaded with nearly three tons of supplies, including food, fresh water and fuel, as it left Baikonur Cosmodrome for the orbiting outpost.

The launch vehicle was an upgraded Soyuz 2-1A rocket that has improved electronics and can carry 300 kg more weight into orbit. It is already in use for launches from ESA’s spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, and is expected to be used to launch astronauts when fully tested.

Today’s Progress mission lifted off from Kazakhstan into a clear blue sky shortly after 07.09 UT to begin a nine minute flight into orbit. It made a pitch-and-roll manouevre to put it on course to chase the ISS.

A further six hours of flight was planned to close their 3,000 km separation and bring the Progress to the space station for a docking at its Pirs module at 13.09 UT.

Powered by its four liquid-fuel boosters, the 46-metre-high Soyuz accelerated to a speed of nearly 1.5 km per second. The boosters shut down 1m 57s after launch and were then jettisoned to fall back to Earth.

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The Progress M-25M cargo ship is pictured from the ISS as it closes in to dock with the Pirs module. Image credit: NASA

Shortly before entering orbit, the protective fairing covering the Progress spacecraft was also jettisoned. The Progress then separated from the Soyuz third stage, 8m 48s after launch, and successfully extended its solar panels and communication antennas.

Mission control reported that all was performing well with the cargo ship as it headed for its rendezvous with the ISS.

Then at 13.08 UT the cargo ship, which is also known as Progress 57P, docked successfully with the Pirs module, as the space station flew 420 km (261 miles) above the Atlantic Ocean.

The six Expedition 41 crew members aboard the ISS will spend the next days unloading the cargo ship's food, fuel and supplies. The spacecraft is due to remain docked to Pirs for the next six months.