In what seemed to be a bid to further elevate the current hype for space travel, which was revived by the successful launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, NASA has now broadcasted the live launch of the ISS Progress 69 mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The Russian Progress MS-08 cargo vehicle was loaded with three tons of supplies intended for the Expedition 54 crew on board the ISS. The cargo vessel was placed on top of a Russian Soyuz rocket, which was commissioned by NASA for the resupply mission.
The launch itself was originally scheduled to take place on Feb. 11, but the launch was automatically aborted during liftoff due to technical issues. The rocket finally left the planet in spectacular fashion at 3:58 a.m. EST today from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The entire launch was streamed in a live webcast on NASA’s website and on NASA Television. The docking of the Progress MS-08 cargo vehicle, which is scheduled to take place on Thursday, will also be broadcasted live. The ship will be docking on the aft port of the Zvezda service module on the ISS. NASA will begin its coverage of the docking maneuvers at 6:30 a.m. EST on Feb. 15.
Since NASA had retired its space shuttle program, the agency had to rely on Russian rockets to ferry its astronauts and cargo to and from the ISS. NASA had partnered with the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, in 2010 and it has been ferrying American cargo and crew to the ISS ever since. The recent launch broke a new record as being the fastest space station cargo run ever recorded. The entire mission, from its launch to reaching its rendezvous point, only took 3 hours and 26 minutes.
Initial missions to the ISS at the start of the partnership between NASA and Roscosmos took more than two days to complete. In 2013, missions to the space station only took six hours, which was a big relief for astronauts and cosmonauts who spent most of their time cramped up inside the small space capsules.
Unlike the manned Soyuz capsules, the Roscosmos Progress cargo ship is fully automated and does not require any crew members to fly and dock. In case of technical issues, the spacecraft is also capable of flying itself to set rendezvous coordinates.