Progress Arrives At Space Station, Easing Supply Concerns

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WASHINGTON — A Russian Progress cargo spacecraft docked with the International Space Station early July 5, easing concerns about supplying the station after a string of recent cargo mission failures.

The Progress M-28M, on a mission designated Progress 60 by NASA, docked with the Pirs module of the ISS at 3:11 a.m. Eastern time July 5. The spacecraft launched on a Soyuz rocket early July 3 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The spacecraft brought to the station a total of 2,769 kilograms of cargo for the station. That total includes 1,421 kilograms of supplies and equipment, 880 kilograms of propellant, 420 kilograms of water, and 48 kilograms of oxygen.

The successful arrival of the Progress comes after the failure of the two previous cargo missions to the ISS. On April 28, the Progress M-27M spacecraft launched on a Soyuz-2 rocket but started spinning uncontrollably shortly after entering orbit, forcing controllers to abort its docking to the station. Russian investigators blamed a “design peculiarity” between the Progress and the Soyuz upper stage on the problem. An older version of the Soyuz rocket launched Progress M-28M without incident.

On June 28, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket broke apart less than two and a half minutes after liftoff, destroying a Dragon cargo spacecraft carrying more than 2,000 kilograms of cargo to the station. SpaceX officials said immediately after the failure that there was an “overpressure event” in the liquid oxygen tank in the rocket’s second stage, but have provided few additional details since then.

Michael Suffredini, NASA ISS program manager, said at a June 28 briefing that the station still had enough basic supplies, including food and water, to support its crew through October. The supplies on this Progress, he said, would extend that date by about a month.

The next ISS resupply mission is scheduled for mid-August, when Japan launches an H-2 Transfer Vehicle. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft, grounded since the failure of its Antares launch vehicle on an October 2014 flight, is scheduled to launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 in December. That launch could be moved up to as early as October, NASA officials said after the Dragon failure, depending on the status of launch manifests and ISS activities.