A Russian Soyuz-U rocket successfully launched an unmanned cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday, following consecutive failures of two previous supply missions. Carrying over 6,100 pounds of food, fuel, and supplies for the ISS crew, the Progress 60 cargo ship lifted off at 12:55 a.m. EDT from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Progress 60 cargo ship will make 34 orbits of Earth during the next two days, before docking to the ISS at 3:13 a.m. EDT on Sunday. The supply ship will remain docked to the space station for about four months. At the time of Friday’s launch, the orbiting laboratory was flying about 249 miles over northwestern Sudan, near the border with Egypt and Libya, according to NASA.
This was the first launch of a cargo spacecraft to the ISS after two failed attempts, involving the Progress 59 in April and SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket carrying a U.S. Dragon spacecraft last week. On Sunday, the Falcon 9 rocket broke into pieces only minutes after its launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to the ISS. The mission was supposed to deliver a robotic Dragon cargo capsule, which was carrying more than 2.5 tons of supplies for the ISS crew.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden later issued a statement, saying the astronauts were safe and had sufficient supplies for the next several months.
“We will work closely with SpaceX to understand what happened, fix the problem and return to flight,” Bolden said in the statement.
Russian space officials said that a leak from fuel and oxidizer tanks in the booster’s third stage caused the failure. However, they did not reveal the exact cause of the initial leak, the Associated Press (AP) reported.