The Russian cargo spacecraft, Progress 71, was launched successfully from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome on Friday at 01.14 PM, with supplies for the ISS crew. The spacecraft is unpiloted, said a NASA announcement. This is the first launch of its sort since the failed launch of the last manned mission on 11 October 2018. It contains about three tons of food, fuel and other supplies, including scientific equipment. It was confirmed that the spacecraft reached preliminary orbit and deployed its navigational antennas, as per schedule. It is expected to dock to the Station on Sunday, after orbiting the earth 34 times. Progress 71 will remain at the Space Station till March when it will depart for deorbit in the earth’s atmosphere.
At present, there are three astronauts at the ISS: Alexander Gerst (the European Space Agency), Sergey Prokopyev (Russia’s Roscosmos) and the NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor. They have been there since the month of June. The canceled October expedition was to take two people there, Nick Hague of NASA and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos. But the rocket developed problems at the time of launch and the mission was aborted, with the crew managing a safe landing. It was found out later that there was a problem with the booster of the rocket. The next manned mission is to be launched on the 13th of December, a joint effort of NASA and Roscosmos.
In the meanwhile, a rocket has been launched eastern Virginia carrying a Cygnus spacecraft on the first phase of its trip to the ISS. Like its Russian counterpart, this one too carries food, vehicle hardware, computer supplements, and spacewalk gear. It even carries some ice-cream and fresh fruit, as a special treat for the astronauts. The launch was scheduled for the 15th, but it got delayed because of bad weather. It was launched finally on Saturday, and the craft is expected to reach the ISS on Monday. NASA’s Joel Montalbano said that the launch was a great success, and he congratulated the private firm that built the rocket.