EDITOR’S NOTE: NASA TV coverage of the docking of the Progress MS-15 cargo craft with the International Space Station begins at 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT.
Launching on a fast-track, three-hour pursuit of the International Space Station, a Soyuz booster lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and delivered an automated Progress resupply freighter into orbit Thursday with nearly three tons of fuel, food and supplies.
The Soyuz-2.1a rocket took off from pad 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 10:26:21 a.m. EDT (1426:21 GMT; 7:26 p.m. Baikonur time) with the Progress MS-15 cargo ship.
The mission’s launch was timed less than a minute before the space station flew directly over the launch base on the remote Kazakh steppe, allowing the Progress supply carrier to chase down the orbiting research complex in a little more than three hours.
The kerosene-fueled Soyuz launcher headed northeast from Baikonur and shed its four first stage boosters two minutes after liftoff. The Soyuz later released an aerodynamic shroud that covered the Progress supply ship, jettisoned its core stage, and ignited a third stage engine to deliver the cargo freighter into orbit.
A live video feed from a camera on-board the Progress spacecraft showed the Soyuz third stage shutting down its engine and separating nearly nine minutes into the mission. The Progress MS-15 freighter then unfurled its power-generating solar array wings and navigation antennas.
Liftoff of a Russian Soyuz-2.1a rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with the Progress MS-15 cargo ship, carrying food, fuel and supplies on a fast-track flight to the International Space Station. https://t.co/TcC8qI1qXS pic.twitter.com/lVR0RRYwuW
— Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) July 23, 2020
Two major rocket burns using the Progress spacecraft’s thrusters were planned at 11:04 a.m., 11:46 a.m., and 12:32 p.m. EDT (1504, 1546, and 1632 GMT) to begin raising its orbit to match the altitude of the International Space Station. Those maneuvers will set the stage for the supply ship’s approach to the station and a flyaround maneuver to line up with the Pirs module on the Russian segment of the research laboratory.
The radar-guided cargo carrier is scheduled to dock with the Pirs module at 1:47 p.m. EDT (1747 GMT), delivering some 2.8 tons (2.6 metric tons) of fuel, food, supplies and other equipment to the research outpost and its five-person crew.
Russian ground teams loaded 3,351 pounds (1,520 kilograms) of dry cargo into the cargo freighter’s pressurized compartment, according to Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. Roscosmos says there’s around 1,322 pounds (600 kilograms) of propellant aboard the Progress MS-15 spacecraft for transfer into the space station’s tanks, along with 926 pounds (420 kilograms) of water and 101 pounds (46 kilograms) of compressed gas to replenish the space station’s breathing air.
The Progress MS-13 supply ship, which docked with the space station Dec. 9, departed the Pirs docking port July 8 to clear the way for the arrival of the new cargo freighter. Once it docks Thursday, the Progress MS-15 spacecraft will remain linked with the space station until December, when it will detach and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.
Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will monitor the Progress MS-15 supply ship’s approach to the space station. They will be ready to intervene and take manual control using a remote command panel inside the station.
Ivanishin and Vagner are joined by Expedition 63 commander Chris Cassidy and NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the International Space Station.
Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagner launched in April aboard a Russian Soyuz crew capsule. They are scheduled to return to Earth in October.
Behnken and Hurley launched May 30 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the first flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts. They reached the station May 31, and are gearing up for undocking as soon as Aug. 1, followed by re-entry and splashdown off the Florida coast Aug. 2.
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