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Russian Progress cargo craft docks at space station

Posted: April 9, 2014
Updated after docking

A Soyuz rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday with a Russian Progress resupply spacecraft, kicking off a expedited flight to the International Space Station with 2.9 tons of fuel, water and supplies. The Progress completed a smooth docking with the outpost six hours after liftoff.

The Soyuz rocket with the Progress M-23M spacecraft lifted off at 9:26 p.m. local time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Photo credit: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now
The unpiloted Progress M-23M cargo vehicle launched at 1526 GMT (11:26 a.m. EDT), firing into an evening sky at Baikonur before its Soyuz booster disappeared in a shroud of low clouds as it raced northeast from the historic launch base.

Officials reported the Soyuz rocket performed as designed during its nine-minute ascent to orbit, with all three stages of the launcher firing normally before releasing the Progress spacecraft into a preliminary orbit.

Russian officials reported the Progress deployed its power-generating solar panels, which extend about 35 feet tip-to-tip, and radar navigation antennas as planned moments after separation from the Soyuz rocket's third stage.

The liftoff was timed to coincide with the space station's pass over Kazakhstan, putting the Progress in position to complete its approach to the 450-ton complex in less than six hours in four orbits around Earth.

Russian engineers programmed the Progress spacecraft to conduct a series of engine burns over the six-hour rendezvous to fine-tune its flight path toward the space station.

The Progress guided itself to the space station using a Kurs radar system.

The Progress began its automated rendezvous sequence about two hours before docking. The radar-guided rendezvous culminated with a flyaround maneuver to line up with the station's Pirs docking compartment.

Docking with the space station's Pirs module occurred at 2114 GMT (5:14 p.m. EDT) as the vehicles flew 260 miles over the eastern Pacific Ocean just off the coast of Peru.

The Progress spacecraft on final approach to the space station. Photo credit: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now

The Progress spaceship is packed with 2.9 tons of cargo, including 1,764 pounds of propellant to be pumped inside the Russian Zvezda service module, 105 pounds of oxygen and air to replenish the atmosphere inside the space station, 926 pounds of water, and 3,126 pounds of supplies and experiment hardware, including fresh food, medical supplies, electronic equipment and other gear.

The space station's Expedition 38 crew is led by veteran Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who is joined aboard the outpost by flight engineers Mikhail Tyurin, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of Russia, and NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Steve Swanson.

The crew will open hatches leading to the Progress spacecraft early Thursday to begin unpacking its cargo.

The mission marks the 55th Progress logistics flight to the space station since 2000, giving it the name Progress 55P in the program's matrix of assembly and utilization missions. It is also the 146th launch to the space station since the first component of the complex launched in 1998.

The spacecraft is due to remain docked to the space station until July 22.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.