Russian Cargo Spacecraft Arrives at Space Station

Russian Cargo Spacecraft Arrives at Space Station

A robotic Russian resupply ship arrived at the International Space Station early Sunday morning (July 5), ending a streak of two straight cargo-mission failures.

Russia's Progress 60 freighter docked at 3:11 a.m. EDT (0711 GMT) Sunday, while the space station was 251 miles (404 kilometers) above the ocean to the southeast of New Zealand. Astronauts aboard the orbiting lab will shortly commence offloading the 6,100 lbs. (2,770 kilograms) of food, water, fuel & other supplies brought up by the vessel.

The mission of Progress 60, which launched early Friday morning (July 3), was more closely watched than most cargo runs to the space station, because the previous two such efforts were unsuccessful.

On June 28, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket exploded less than three minutes after liftoff, scuttling the California-based company's seventh resupply mission. (SpaceX holds a $1.6 billion NASA contract to make at least 12 such flights to the $100 billion orbiting outpost using the Falcon 9 & the unmanned Dragon capsule.)

And the Progress 59 vessel fell back to Earth in May, approximately nine days after experiencing a problem during launch. Investigators after traced the cause to an issue with the third stage of the Russian Soyuz rocket that lofted the freighter.

The space station is fairly well stocked despite these back-to-back mishaps: It had enough supplies to support crewmembers through October before Progress 60's arrival, NASA officials said in the wake of the Falcon 9 explosion.

Three people currently live & work aboard the orbiting lab: NASA astronaut Scott Kelly & cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko & Gennady Padalka. Kelly & Kornienko are approximately three months into the first-ever yearlong mission aboard the station, which is designed to assist pave the way for the lengthy journey to Mars.

Three more spaceflyers are scheduled to join this skeleton crew on July 22, bringing the station back up to full strength.

Another cargo vessel is slated to arrive relatively shortly as well: If all goes according to plan, Japan's robotic H-2 Transfer Vehicle freighter will blast off on Aug. 16.

 Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.

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