Unpiloted Russian Cargo Ship Reaches Space Station In Record Time

Friday, 13 Jul, 2018

So far, Russian spacecraft have proved to be faster than any others which headed to the space station.

It marked the first time such fast-track approach was used.

The Progress MS-09 lifted off as scheduled at 3:51 a.m. (2151 GMT; 5:51 p.m. EDT Monday) from the Russia-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The fastest-ever cargo run took less than four hours, rather than the usual two days, due to a carefully planned, time-saving, two-orbit trajectory that Russian Federation wants to use for crewed as well as uncrewed flights.

If all goes well, the automated Progress will catch up with its quarry after a series of carefully timed rendezvous rocket firings to adjust the supply ship's altitude, gliding to a docking at the station's Earth-facing Pirs module around 9:39 p.m. - less than four hours after launch.

Progress Spacecraft are expendable vehicles that have been furnishing the ISS since 2000, the year astronauts initially assumed residence on the orbiting lab. NASA officials said that if everything works out as per the plan Progress 70 will remain connected to the station until January 2019. Progress spacecraft (and crew-carrying Soyuz capsules) originally took two days to reach the station before Roscosmos cut that trip down to 6 hours in 2013.

Russian cargo resupply trips to the International Space Station have become such a regular, predictable thing that even NASA rarely bothers to make a big deal out of them, but today's resupply mission is worth some attention. Ultimately, Progress 69 launched on the 2-day flight profile as well. In February, a Progress MS-07 launch was cancelled at the last minute after another attempt in October 2016.