CAPE CANAVERAL • A Russian Soyuz rocket has blasted off to deliver a cargo ship loaded with food, water and equipment to the International Space Station, breaking a string of launch failures, a Nasa TV broadcast showed.
The Progress capsule, carrying more than 2,700kg of supplies yesterday, was expected to reach the orbiting outpost tomorrow following its launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. "All of the systems on the Progress (are) in excellent shape," said Nasa launch commentator Rob Navias.
Yesterday's lift-off came five days after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded after launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The accident destroyed a Dragon capsule carrying about 2,200kg of food, science experiments and equipment, including a docking system for two new space taxis under development by SpaceX and Boeing.
The cause of the accident is under investigation.
On April 28, a Russian Progress capsule failed to separate properly from the upper stage of its Soyuz launcher, dooming the mission. Unable to reach its intended orbit, the capsule incinerated as it re-entered the atmosphere on May 8.
Another launch accident on Oct 28 by Orbital ATK destroyed a Cygnus cargo capsule bound for the station, a US$100 billion (S$135 billion) research laboratory that flies about 418km above Earth.
A final report on that accident is still pending, said Orbital spokesman Barry Beneski.
The failures cast a shadow over the still emerging space transport industry, but experts said they had not exposed any fundamental flaws.
The arrival of the Russian cargo ship and the planned launch of a Japanese HTV freighter in August, should replenish the station's pantries through the end of the year, Nasa said. Yesterday's successful launch clears the way for three new crew members - Nasa astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Japan's Kimiya Yui - to fly to the station later this month.