Russian Progress 70 Becomes Fastest Spacecraft to Reach the Space Station

Federico Mansilla
Julio 13, 2018

With today's launch, Roscosmos aims to demonstrate that an even faster trip is feasible.

The Russians attempted such a fast-track rendezvous on the two most recent Progress launches but in both cases, delays were ordered because of unrelated issues in the final moments of the countdown.

A Soyuz rocket is scheduled to launch the uncrewed Progress 70 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:51 p.m. EDT (2151 GMT) to deliver almost 3 tons of supplies for the space station's crew. 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.

Astronauts aboard the ISS - a science laboratory orbiting 250 miles above Earth every 90 minutes - are able to see multiple moonsets in a single day as it travels at a brisk speed of 17,100 miles per hour. The previous record time from takeoff to docking was around six hours, and that involved four orbits.

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But it seemed that fortune favored Progress 70.

The Progress MS-09 or Progress 70 cargo ship-the former name is used by the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, and the latter by NASA-only did two orbits of Earth before docking with the ISS. Progress 70 will stay linked to the space station until January 2019, when it will be discarded, NASA officials said. "Third time was the charm".

The European Space Agency has also launched cargo to the ISS with that agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle, the last of which flew in 2014.

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