The unpiloted Russian Progress 70 spacecraft has set a record on July 9 by reaching the International Space Station less than four hours after its liftoff.
The Progress 70, also called the Progress MS-09 resupply ship, traveled miles over the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand. It docked at exactly 9:39 p.m. EDT, eight minutes earlier than expected, to the Pirs Docking Compartment of the ISS. It carried almost 3 tons of food, fuel, and other supplies for the astronauts.
The spacecraft launched at 5:51 p.m. from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It will remain in orbit until January 2019. The Progress will then be loaded with ISS rubbish and will be sent to burn up in Earth's atmosphere.
Progress 70 Sets Space Record
During the launch of the Progress 70, the ISS was at about 250 miles over southwest Uzbekistan, south of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. In less than 10 minutes after liftoff, the Progress 70 has already reached its preliminary orbit and flawlessly deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas.
The Progress 70 took only two orbits of Earth before it docked to ISS. It usually takes other spacecraft four orbits to dock to the orbiting laboratory. In fact, other Progress spacecraft, even Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying astronaut aboard, had taken six hours and four orbits of Earth.
The July 9 launch was the third time that Russia attempted to set its fastest trip to space. The first failed attempt was in October 2017 and then another in February this year. Both spacecraft took two days to achieve what the Progress 70 attained in less than four hours.
NASA said the achievement demonstrated an expedited capability that may be beneficial for future Russian missions, may it be a cargo resupply or a human space exploration.
Roscosmos, Russia's state space corporation, said the Progress MS-09 was also the first Russian spacecraft that was installed with video cameras. Moving forward, future Russian spacecraft would be mounted with both external and internal video control systems.
Meanwhile, on July 6, more supplies were being unloaded from the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. The Canadarm2 robotic arm also extracted a new Earth-observing experiment from the rear of the Dragon: the ECOSTRESS gear.
The gear was remotely installed on the outside of the Kibo laboratory module. From then on, it will provide thermal infrared measurements of the Earth's surface to help scientists assess changes in water and vegetation on the planet.
Two of the crew aboard the ISS also stored their blood samples to be used for the Myotomes muscle study. The said experiment may help doctors design ways to keep the astronauts healthy in space. Other output from the study will also help in developing treatments for people with mobility and aging issues.