Russian Progress cargo reaches Space Station in record time

Christopher Davidson
July 11, 2018

News Brief: A robotic Russian Progress cargo craft today was sent on a "fast-track" trajectory that got it to the International Space Station in less time than it takes to drive from Seattle to Spokane.

A Soyuz rocket is scheduled to launch the uncrewed Progress 70 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:51 p.m. EDT (2151 GMT) to deliver almost 3 tons of supplies for the space station's crew.

Russian freighters and spacecraft carrying crews usually take at least six hours and four orbits around Earth to reach the space station. That would be the fastest trip yet for a mission to the space station. Well, the specifics are a bit vague on Russia's end, but the gist is that the Russian space agency is now using an updated navigation system on its resupply missions.

Energia space flight strategists hope that the two-revolution pattern will be applied to manned missions, too, but this will require several more launches of the Progresses on two-revolution rendezvous.

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This was the first Russian cargo mission to demonstrate an "expedited capability" that will likely be used again in future, NASA said in a statement. In February, a Progress MS-07 launch was cancelled at the last minute after another attempt in October 2016.

Russia's Progress cargo ships have been keeping the space station stocked with supplies since 2000, when the first crew took up residence on the orbiting lab.

"We're considering another two or three dockings of cargo crafts [with the ISS] and we'll then try the pattern at the Soyuz [manned] spacecraft", Romanov said.

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