Russian ISS cargo ship successfully launched
An unmanned Russian cargo ship bound for the International Space Station (ISS) was successfully launched from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome Friday, following a string of failed resupply missions.
Russian television broadcast the launch of the Progress M-28M ship, which departed from the Kazakh steppes in a cloud of white smoke.
The vessel, which is transporting nearly three tonnes of food supplies and scientific materials, is expected to arrive at the ISS at 07:13 GMT on Sunday, the Russian Federal Space Agency said.
Friday's launch marks Russia's first ISS resupply mission since the loss of a previous Progress cargo ship, which disintegrated in space on May 8 after it failed to dock with the space station.
That failure meant that the next manned flight to the ISS was delayed from late May to July 23.
The same type of rocket is used for manned ships, meaning that all problems with Progress resupply missions need to be thoroughly investigated before any manned vessels can be launched.
The loss of the cargo ship was one of a spate of embarrassing malfunctions for Russia's space programme that also saw a rocket carrying a Mexican satellite suffer engine failure.
The launch of the Progress M-28M also comes days after the explosion in the US of a rocket from private firm SpaceX, whose unmanned Dragon cargo capsule was on a mission to resupply the ISS.
The accident was the third in less than a year involving US and Russian supply ships bound for the International Space Station, and raised new concerns about the flow of food and gear to the astronauts living in orbit.
Another US firm, Orbital Sciences, lost its Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo carrier in an explosion in October.
Russia is the only country still sending up its own craft to the ISS after NASA ended its space shuttle programme in 2011 and turned to private firms to fly supply missions to the space station.
© 2015 AFP