Russia launched a new robotic cargo mission to the International Space Station early Friday (June 3) in the country’s first resupply mission to the orbiting lab since it invaded Ukraine earlier this year.
The uncrewed Progress 81 freighter launched into clear, blue skies this afternoon atop a Russian-made Soyuz rocket at 5:32 a.m. EDT (0932 GMT) from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where the local time was 2:32 p.m.
“It was a perfect launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome,” NASA spokeswoman Sandra Jones said during a live launch commentary from the agency’s Mission Control Center in Houston.
Related: How Russian Progress Spaceships Work (Infographic)
Russia remains a partner in the International Space Station (ISS) program despite its ongoing war against Ukraine, even though its chief Dmitry Rogozin has repeatedly threatened to quit the program, which is a collaboration of five different space agencies and 15 countries. In late March, just weeks after its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, the country returned NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei to Earth as planned on a Soyuz spacecraft. This landing followed the launch of three cosmonauts to the station on its Expedition 66 and 67 missions.
“NASA TV provides operational coverage of all International Space Station launches to provide transparency and enable mission support personnel to maintain the situational awareness necessary for safe and sustained operation of the Space Station. international,” Jones said.
Progress 81 completed two orbits around Earth en route to the space station, with the ultimate spacecraft docking at the aft end of the Russian-built Zvezda module at 9:02 a.m. EDT (1302 GMT) as the two spaceships sailed over the Philippines. , east of Manila.
Many of Russia’s space partnerships have collapsed following the nation’s lawsuit invasion of ukraine.
Soyuz rockets no longer launch from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana, for example, and Russia has stopped selling Russian-made rocket engines to American companies. But Russia remains an integral part of the ISS program, as the launch of Progress 81 shows.
Progress 81 carries 5,551 pounds of supplies for the station’s seven-person Expedition 67 crew. This includes approximately 3,214 pounds of dry cargo such as food, clothing and gear; 1,323 pounds of propellant, 926 pounds of water and 80 pounds of nitrogen, Jones said.
The launch follows the departure of a former Russian freighter to the space station. Progress 79 undocked from the station on Wednesday June 2 and burned up in Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean, taking with it a load of trash and unnecessary items, Jones said.
Progress 81 will be followed in relatively short succession by another cargo flight – SpaceX’s CRS-25 robotic mission, slated for launch next Friday (June 10). And the ISS was also recently visited by another unmanned spacecraft – Boeing Starliner capsule, which made a crucial test flight to the orbiting laboratory from May 19 to May 25.
This May mission, called Orbital Test Flight 2 (OFT-2), was probably the last big hurdle Boeing had to clear before NASA certified Starliner to carry astronauts. The capsule’s first crewed flight could take place before the end of the year, provided analysis of data from OFT-2 reveals nothing concerning, Boeing and NASA officials have said. .
Editor’s note: This story was updated on June 3 with the results of the launch and docking of the Progress 81 freighter. A new target launch date of June 10 for SpaceX’s CRS-25 freighter mission was added on June 2.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).