Progress M-63 freighter en route to International Space Station

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

An earlier Progress spacecraft, seen from the International Space Station.

Progress spacecraft M-63, serial number 363, also designated Progress 28P, has been launched by the Russian Federal Space Agency on a mission to resupply the International Space Station. Liftoff, atop a Soyuz-U carrier rocket occurred at 13:02 GMT, from Area 1/5 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The spacecraft will dock with the space station on Thursday, a few hours ahead of the scheduled launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on STS-122, with the Columbus module, a new laboratory which will enhance the outpost's research capabilities.

The Progress spacecraft is used to deliver supplies and experiments to the station. Typically four or five are launched each year, with the two most recently launched remaining on station, the oldest being undocked and de-orbited shortly before the arrival of a new one. However in this case, owing to the imminent Space Shuttle launch, there is currently no Progress spacecraft at the ISS, following the undocking of Progress M-62 yesterday.

Progress spacecraft, which are loose analogues of the Soyuz spacecraft, have been used as resupply craft in space station programmes since Salyut 6. Progress M-63 is the 28th Progress spacecraft to fly as part of the ISS programme.

This is the fourth orbital launch of 2008, and the second for Russia.