Successful Russian launch eases space station fears

Russia’s Progress cargo ship lifted off successfully for the International Space Station yesterday, the first flight to do so since a similar unmanned freighter crashed in August.

The rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:11 am EDT, allaying concerns that it could suffer a smilar failure to the previous launch, blamed on a malfunctioning fuel line.

It clears the way for the next manned launch to the ISS, due on November 14. Since the failed launch, the ISS has had a crew of three, half the usual complement. About a week after the arrival of the new crew, the existing crew members will depart.

There had been fears that if yesterday’s launch had failed, the ISS would have been left unstaffed after the return of the current crew, for the first time since the original crew arrived in 2000.

“We congratulate our Russian colleagues on Sunday’s successful launch of ISS Progress 45, and the spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station,” says Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations.

“Pending the outcome of a series of flight readiness meetings in the coming weeks, this successful flight sets the stage for the next Soyuz launch, planned for mid-November. The December Soyuz mission will restore the space station crew size to six and continue normal crew rotations.”

The Progress freighter carries 2.8 tons of food, fuel and other supplies – including two iPads to entertain the crew – along with a small satellite called Chibis-M, which willl study thunderstorms on Earth.It should arrive at the ISS on Wednesday.

It will leave the ISS on Saturday, packed with trash, and burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.