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Russia launches space freighter after August disaster

The unpiloted ISS Progress 45 (M-13M) cargo craft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Photo: NASA TV

MOSCOW (PTI): After a disaster that hit a cargo spaceship launch last August, Russia has successfully launched a freighter spacecraft with almost three-tons of supplies crucial for sustaining the manned missions on the International Space Station (ISS).

A Progress M-13M spaceship carrying nearly three tons of cargo for the ISS successfully blasted off from Baikonur at 15.41 IST on Sunday, ITAR-TASS reported quoting space officials present at the cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The spacecraft will dock with the space station on Wednesday.

The outcome of the mission will determine the future of manned operations at the ISS, local experts say.

It is the first launch of a Progress series cargo ship since a crash on August 24, first in over three decades of the regular launches.

The probe revealed that the launch vehicle's third-stage engine shut down prematurely, later it was discovered that the problem was caused by a low fuel feed, and all engines currently in stock were returned back to the manufacturer for inspection.

This spacecraft has brand new engines, which were manufactured according to stricter quality standards.

The Progress M-13M spacecraft is packed with 2.9 tons of food, fuel and supplies, including crucial stocks of oxygen and water.

It is also carrying a substantial load of maintenance gear, spare parts and a mini satellite Chibis-M, to study lightning and thunderstorms in the Earth's atmosphere, Russia's Federal Roscosmos space agency said.

The launch is critical because it will pave the way for manned launches as Progress spacecraft are launched with rocket also used for manned mission to deliver replacement crew for the ISS.

The suspended mission comprising of NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov are now expected to begin their space watch on November 13.

However, final clearance will be issued only after Progress cargo ship successfully reaches the station.

The current crew of the ISS will return to Earth on November 22, and if no replacement is delivered by that date, for the first time since 2000, the station will go into unmanned operation, Russia Today TV said.


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