Russian cargo ship to try fast-track rendezvous with space station

A Russian Soyuz rocket and Progress resupply freighter are set for liftoff Monday on an accelerated, less-than-four-hour rendezvous with the International Space Station after last-minute launch scrubs prevented two similar fast-track approach attempts in recent months.

The Progress MS-09 cargo craft will blast off on top of a Soyuz-2.1a rocket at 2151 GMT (5:51 p.m. EDT) Monday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where liftoff is set to occur at 3:51 a.m. local time Tuesday.

The three-stage Soyuz rocket emerged from its hangar at Baikonur shortly after sunrise Saturday for the rail journey to the nearby Site 31 launch complex, where hydraulic pistons engaged to raise the launcher vertical. A retractable gantry structure enclosed the Soyuz rocket to give ground crews access to the vehicle for final countdown and fueling preparations.

The mission will be the 70th Russian Progress resupply launch to the International Space Station, and the second Progress flight this year.

Shrouded in a nose fairing atop the Soyuz launcher, the automated Progress MS-09 supply ship is packed with nearly three tons of equipment, experiments, food, fuel and water.

The Soyuz-2.1a rocket will dispatch the cargo capsule toward the northeast from the Baikonur Cosmodrome about the same time the space station sails overhead in its orbit, shortening the distance the Progress MS-09 spacecraft must close before docking.

Four kerosene-fueled first stage boosters will shut down and jettison from the Soyuz rocket around two minutes after liftoff, and the fairing shroud covering the Progress supply ship will separate a short time later. The Soyuz second stage will fall away around five minutes after liftoff, and the third stage’s RD-0110 engine will ignite to sed the Progress spacecraft into orbit.

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