Russian Cargo Ship Arrives at ISS

Russian Cargo Ship Arrives at ISS

Russia’s Progress M-28M robotic cargo spacecraft docked with the International Space Station at 3:11 am Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) this morning (July 5), a little over two days after it was launched early Friday morning EDT.

The cargo vehicle, called Progress 60 or 60P by NASA, is delivering 1,940 pounds of propellant, 106 pounds of water, 106 pounds of oxygen, and 3,133 pounds of food, parts, supplies and experimental hardware.

NASA calls it 60P because it is the 60th Progress mission launched to support ISS, an indication of how often these spacecraft take supplies to the ISS crew.  They are so routine that they often get little notice, but the previous Russian flight, Progress M-27M, failed.  Two U.S. cargo spacecraft also failed over the past eight months:  Orbital Sciences Corporation’s (now Orbital ATK) Orb-3 mission on October 28, 2014 and SpaceX’s CRS-7 last Sunday (June 28). 

Although there were four successful cargo flights over that 8-month span (two Russian, two SpaceX) and NASA said the crew has plenty of supplies through October, the failure of three of the four ISS cargo systems in such a short period of time was worrying.  

The fourth system is Japan’s HTV and the fifth in that series, HTV-5, is scheduled for launch next month.

The successful docking gives everyone a sigh of relief.   One of the crew exclaimed that it was like “Christmas in July.”

SpaceX is still trying to determine what went wrong 139 seconds into the launch of its seventh operational Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-7) mission to ISS on June 28.  Orbital ATK found that a problem with the NK33/AJ26 engine of its Antares rocket caused the Orb-3 failure last October and is switching to a completely different engine (RD-181).  While waiting for the re-engined Antares to enter service in the first quarter of 2016, it will launch its next Cygnus cargo craft on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket later this year.

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