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Russian cargo ship docks at ISS in record time

13 July 2018

Russia's Progress cargo ships have been keeping the space station stocked with supplies since 2000, when the first crew took up residence on the orbiting lab.

The ISS Progress 70 spacecraft lifted off at 5:51 p.m. EDT July 9 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It will take the ISS' crew several months to unload all of it, but once Progress 70 has been emptied, it's slated to bring the 16-foot, 8,000-pound Pirs docking compartment, originally attached to the ISS in 2011, back to Earth. That would be the fastest trip yet for a mission to the space station.

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Russian cargo ship places a novel record for the speediest trip to space station. At 9:31 p.m. ET, the spacecraft was ready to dock at the space station.

This was the first Russian cargo mission to demonstrate an "expedited capability" that will likely be used again in future, NASA said in a statement. It will stay at the orbital outpost until the end of January 2019. This will be replaced with the new Multipurpose Laboratory Module Nauka, whose launch date is yet to be decided. Over those 40 years, the vast majority of Progress launches have taken 34-orbit (2-day) journeys to whatever space stations (Salyut 6, Salyut 7, Mir, or ISS) they have resupplied.

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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. The vehicles look like Russia's crewed, three-module Soyuz spacecraft but can not carry people.

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