Russian supply ship blasts off on 6-hour flight to station

Sunlight glints off the International Space Station with the blue limb of Earth providing a dramatic backdrop

An unmanned Russian Progress supply ship blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday and set off on an abbreviated 6-hour Halloween flight to the International Space Station.

Loaded with 2.9 tons of supplies and equipment, the Progress M-17M spacecraft climbed away from its launching stand at 3:41 a.m. EDT (1:41 p.m. local time) and accelerated smoothly toward orbit atop a jet of fiery exhaust.

Eight minutes and 45 seconds later, the supply ship was released into its planned preliminary orbit, on track for a docking at the aft port of the Russian Zvezda command module around 9:40 a.m.

"Good morning ," station commander Sunita Williams radioed NASA flight controllers in Houston. "Happy Halloween, and hopefully our little trick-or-treat vehicle is on its way. We just got to see it out the window and that's pretty special. Hope you guys are having a great day."

This was the fourth Progress launched this year, the second to follow an abbreviated six-hour rendezvous with the space station. Russian flight controllers normally implement two-day rendezvous profiles, but they are perfecting procedures for single-day flights for possible use with manned Soyuz missions.

The Progress M-17M spacecraft is loaded with 2,050 pounds of space station propellant, 62 pounds of oxygen, 42 pounds of air, 926 pounds of water and 2,738 pounds of spare parts, crew supplies and equipment. It is scheduled to remain docked at the space station until next April.

  • William Harwood

    Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He covered 129 space shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia."