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18th Progress Lifts Off.

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Launch trail from the Progress 18 spacecraft.
Launch trail from the Progress 18 spacecraft. Image credit: Energia.

An unmanned Russian Progress cargo spacecraft lifted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome Thursday evening, beginning its journey to resupply the International Space Station. On board the 18th Progress cargo ship are two tonnes of supplies, including food, water, air, fuel, equipment and personal items. The spacecraft will reach the station and dock automatically to the Zvezda module on Saturday.

A Russian Progress cargo spacecraft successfully launched tonight at 7:09 p.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Carrying more than two tons of supplies, the Progress is on its way for a two-day trip to the International Space Station (ISS).

Less than 10 minutes after launch, the Progress settled into orbit, as automatic commands deployed solar arrays and navigational antennas. This will be the 18th Progress to dock with the Station. The Station was flying over Manchuria near the Russian-Chinese border 225 miles above the Earth at liftoff. The ISS Expedition 11 crew, Commander Sergei Krikalev and Flight Engineer and NASA Science Officer John Phillips, were informed of the successful launch and orbit insertion.

Engine firings are scheduled later tonight and tomorrow to raise and refine Progress' orbit and its path to the Station. The Progress is scheduled for an automated docking at the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module on Saturday at 8:44 p.m. EDT. NASA TV will provide live coverage of the linkup beginning at 7 p.m. EDT.

The Progress is carrying food, fuel, oxygen, water, spare parts and personal items for the Station crew. It is filled with 397 pounds of propellant, 242 pounds of oxygen and air, 926 pounds of water, and more than 3,097 pounds of spare parts, life support system components and experiment hardware. The Progress is also carrying 40 solid fuel oxygen-generation canisters as a supplemental source of oxygen, if required.

Progress is delivering a new digital camera for the Station crew to capture images of Space Shuttle Discovery during its approach to the Station for docking during the Return to Flight mission, STS-114, planned for next month. The new camera replaces a similar inoperable camera. The photos will be part of the imagery-gathering effort to inspect the Shuttle for potential damage to thermal tiles or the reinforced carbon-carbon coating on its wings.

Krikalev and Phillips are scheduled to open the hatch to the Progress a few hours after docking Saturday to begin unloading supplies.

The Progress docked with the Station since March was undocked yesterday at 4:16 p.m. EDT. Filled with discarded items, it was deorbited and burned up in Earth's atmosphere.

Information about the crew’s activities aboard the Station, future launch dates, previous status reports and sighting opportunities, are available on the Internet at: http://www.nasa.gov/station

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