After a series of rather unfortunate rocket launch failures, the Russians successfully launched a Soyuz rocket to deliver a cargo ship packed with much needed food, water and equipment for the International Space Station (ISS) yesterday. The launch was broadcasted on NASA TV.
WHAT ARE THE RUSSIANS PUTTING INTO SPACE?
Loaded with more than three tons (2,700 kg) of needed supplies, the Progress capsule was predicted to rendezvous with the ISS on Sunday, after is launch at 12:55 a.m. EDT. It lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
NASA launch commentator Rob Navias noted that “[a]ll of the systems on the Progress [are] in excellent shape.”
WHY THE RUSSIANS NEED TO DELIVER TO THE ISS
This launch of the Soyuz followed the explosion of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket five days ago, after it launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The explosion incinerated a Dragon capsule that was carrying roughly 5,000 (2,200 kg) lbs of food, equipment and science experiments. It was also carrying a docking system for two new space taxi designs, developed by SpaceX and Boeing.
RECENT STRING OF FAILED LAUNCHES
Previous launch failures include a Russian Progress capsule, which on April 28th failed to properly separate from its Soyuz launcher’s upper-stage, fating the mission to failure, as it burned up upon reentry into the atmosphere on May 8th.
Among its ranks is the October 28th Orbital ATK incident, which destroyed a Cygnus cargo capsule en route for the ISS. The ISS is a $100 billion research lab orbiting the Earth at approximately 260 miles (418 km) altitude. Spokesman Barry Beneski has so far announced that a final report on the accident is pending further investigation.
TAKE HEART, SPACE CADET
These unfortunate mishaps in launch, rendezvous, et al are disheartening to those anxious to jump-start the space transport industry, which has been a subject of growing financial investment and speculation since the SpaceX made the first commercial flight into space it the last decade. However, experts are resolute that these mishaps were not due to any innate or fundamental flaws of space travel.
The thing is each of these incidents occurred with three totally different rockets, for three completely disparate reasons, having nothing in common “other than it’s space, and it’s difficult to go fly [in].” Space travel will always be inherently dangerous, but so is anything worth doing, when it comes to the Human drive to explore and expand its understanding to new horizons.
Friday’s more fortunate mission means that three new crew members will be able to join the ISS later this month. They are NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Japanese space traveler Kimiya Yui, who were delayed after Russia delayed their May 26 departure for engineers to re-asses the Soyuz for remaining rocket issues.