Progress cargo ship blasts off on station resupply flight

A Russian Progress supply ship blasts off from Kazakhstan Tuesday, bound for the International Space Station. (Credit: Mark Bowman/NASA)
An unmanned Russian Progress cargo ship loaded with three tons of supplies and equipment bound for the International Space Station blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Tuesday and rocketed smoothly into orbit.

The Progress M-11M spacecraft took off at 10:38 a.m. EDT (GMT-4), kicking off the 43rd unmanned Russian space station cargo mission. If all goes well, the Progress will complete an automated approach and docking at the Zvezda command module's aft port at 12:37 p.m. Thursday.

The spacecraft is loaded with 2,050 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen, 926 pounds of water and 2,813 pounds of dry cargo, including food, crew supplies and equipment.

The Progress M-11M will dock at the same port used by the European Space Agency's Johannes Kepler Automated Transfer Vehicle, or ATV-2, which undocked Monday after delivering more than 5,000 pounds of fuel, oxygen and crew supplies and equipment.

The shuttle Atlantis is scheduled for launch from the Kennedy Space Center July 8 to deliver another 9,600 pounds of equipment and supplies intended to make sure the space station has enough in the way of crew provisions to make it through 2012 even if commercial cargo ships being built to replace lost shuttle capability run into problems and delays.

Atlantis is scheduled to dock at the space station's forward port on July 10, two days after launch. Along with delivering critical supplies and equipment, the shuttle crew will carry a failed ammonia coolant system pump module back to Earth for analysis. Undocking is expected July 18, setting up a landing back at the Kennedy Space Center on July 20.

The Progress launched Tuesday will remain docked to Zvezda until Aug. 29 when it will be jettisoned. Another Progress carrying another load of supplies is scheduled for launch Aug. 1.