After the maligned Space-X Falcon 9 rocket exploded mid-trip to outer space, the launch of the eight-ton Russian Progress M-28M later tonight will be a rather important one. The rocket is slated to take 3,071 pounds of food, medical supplies and hardware, around 900 pounds of water and and 1,146 pounds of propellant – much needed to fuel the International Space Station and its propulsion system. This would be a routine flight and nothing to get too excited about, but with the recent launch of the supply rocket for the ISS going wrong in more ways than one, this really is rather important.
According to a website called SpaceFlightNow.com this is a “ISS critical cargo” launch. The space station has ample supplies, but with the last resupply mission being successfully completed in April, with two failed launches happening after that, it is clear why this flight is vital in keeping the space station and its daily routine on schedule. According to said website, ROSCOSMOS switched to the older Soyuz-U rocket for Friday’s launch. This is due entirely as a precautionary method to circumvent any issues that may have caused the previous ROSCOSMOS launch to fail.
With the first launch after the successful mission, a Progress freighter launched on April 28 started tumbling minutes after launch. This issue has been linked to vibrations in the connection between the spacecraft and the third stage of its Soyuz rocket. The rocket flew in the upgraded Soyuz-2.1a configuration for the failed mission. After that, the most recent failed launch was on June 28, when a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket broke apart nearly two-and-a-half minutes after blastoff from Cape Canaveral with a commercial Dragon cargo craft. In the failed launch, some two tons of gear was destroyed – including a new docking adapter, a spacesuit and crew provisions.
The rocket will take flight from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch marks the 60th flight of a Russian space craft to the International Space Station since 2000, making this a highly historical moment for this historic launch site. Liftoff for the Progress M-28M is set for 0455:50 GMT (12:55:50 a.m. EDT; 10:55:50 a.m. Baikonur time) from the much famed historic launch base, with the Soyuz third stage set to deploy the Progress M-28M spacecraft into orbit a few seconds before the 10 minutes expire a bit later. Let’s hope that the launch proceeds successfully, giving the much needed payload to the astronauts in the station and helping science conquer even more challenges as well.
Images: Russian ground crews transferred the Soyuz rocket with the Progress M-28M supply ship to its launch pad Wednesday. Photo by Roscosmos. The Soyuz rocket engines. Photo by NASA.