Russia's "Progress 70" cargo delivery launch vehicle has successfully docked at the International Space Station (ISS). Supplies were delivered to the crew of expedition 56 in record time.
The mission was to deliver nearly three tonnes material that includes food, fuel, and other supplies, the unmanned Progress cargo rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch vehicle was a Russian Soyuz rocket.
"We have liftoff of the Progress resupply ship, heading into the express lane, bound for the International Space Station," NASA spokesman Rob Navias said during live commentary. Reports on the launch mention that the rocket reached the ISS after only two orbits of Earth.
Progress 70 docked with the space station high over the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, a full eight minutes before expected time. Progress 70 launched at 5:51 p.m. EDT and docked at the ISS by 9:31 p.m. EDT, about three hours and 40 minutes.
The previous record for the fastest delivery by a Progress cargo ship was about 6 hours long and took 4 full Earth orbits. The newly completed flight was designed to "demonstrate an expedited capability that may be used on future Russian cargo and crew launches," NASA said in a statement last week.
Last year, Russia attempted two such fast launches, once last October and this February, notes a report by Space.com. Both missions were reconfigured into full, two day trips after several launch delays.
Progress 70 is set to stay docked to the ISS till about January 2019, said NASA. The empty container will then be packed in tight with garbage and launched back into Earth, where it will burn up in the atmosphere as it reenters.
As of now, along with the Progress 70, there are three cargo capsules docked to the ISS. There is a SpaceX Dragon capsule and a Cygnus pod made by Northrop Grumman. They each took a couple of days after launch to reach the ISS. The Cygnus will burn up on reentry, while the dragon will land on Earth.