The Russian-made Progress 60 cargo craft has successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) following a two-day orbital rendezvous period. In the wake of a series of spacecraft losses, the successful execution of the Progress 60 mission will allow the space station's crew and administrators to breath a little easier.
Prior to the Russian mission, attempts to re-supply the space station had been met with repeated failure. Last month's SpaceX CRS-7 spacecraft carrying 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) of scientific experiments, station components, and crew supplies was lost 2 minutes 18 seconds after launch, as its Falcon 9 rocket experienced a fatal fault causing the launch vehicle and its cargo to break up over the Atlantic Ocean.
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The loss of CRS-7 came in the wake of two earlier failed re-supply missions – Progress 59, and Orbital Science's Cygnus space freighter. The Russian Progress 59 spacecraft achieved an initial orbital insertion, but after experiencing a terminal loss of telemetry soon after launch, was allowed to slide back into Earth's atmosphere.
Last October's Cygnus re-supply mission didn't even make it that far, as its newly-upgraded Antares 130 launch vehicle exploded in spectacular fashion a mere 6 seconds after launch at Orbital Science's Wallops Island launch facility, Virginia.
Whilst NASA had been keen to emphasize after each loss that the crew were amply well supplied up to October, the successful docking of Progress 60 will have been met with an audible sigh of relief. Progress 60 delivered 6,100 lb (2,767 kg) of supplies to the ISS, including vitals such as food water and fuel.
Having imparted its precious cargo, Progress 60 will remain docked with the station for the next four months, serving as a cosmic trash can before being released from the outpost, and allowing itself to burn up in Earth's atmosphere.
Source: NASAView gallery - 3 images