Russian cargo ship docks at ISS in record time

Pablo Tucker
July 13, 2018

According to Phys.Org, the unmanned ship launched off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, July 10 at 3:51 a.m. local time (Monday, 21:51 GMT).

Russian freighters and spacecraft carrying crews usually take at least six hours and four orbits around Earth to reach the space station. It would be just another routine launch except for the fact that it was placed on a trajectory that got it to ISS in just two orbits - roughly 3.5 hours instead of 6 hours or 2 days. That would be the fastest trip yet for a mission to the space station.

Space exploration agencies hope the flights will eventually allow astronauts and cosmonauts to routinely make the trip to the ISS in just a few hours - instead of the two-day journey in cramped conditions they now have to endure in order to reach the world's only orbital laboratory.

Russian Federation made space history on Tuesday with the fastest cargo mission ever to the International Space Station. The Progress 70 cargo ship will remain at the orbital outpost until late January 2019, NASA said.

Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, attributed the speedy delivery time and fewer loops around the Earth's orbit to the improved capacity of the Soyuz 2.1 carrier rocket.

The Pirs module is the preferred docking port for the Soyuz and Progress vehicles. That mission, HTV-7, will take about 4 hours to reach the ISS after launching from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center. Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems will launch a Cygnus cargo mission to the ISS for NASA in November, followed by a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft later that month.

A second attempt earlier this year in February hit the same roadblock with Progress 69: A last-minute glitch forced Roscosmos to abort the launch a minute before liftoff.

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