Russian space station controllers are in the process of swapping out a trash-filled cargo ship for a new one bearing fresh supplies, following the successful launch of a Progress spacecraft from Kazakhstan today.
At 12:23 p.m. EDT (16:23 UTC), Progress MS-02 lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, carrying three tons of food, fuel and crew sundries into orbit. The spacecraft will arrive at the International Space Station this Saturday, docking at the same aft Zvezda port vacated yesterday by another Progress vehicle, M-29M.
M-29M was the final freighter in the Progress M series, which is being succeeded by newer MS variants equipped with upgraded navigation and communications systems. The discarded spacecraft will linger in orbit until April 8, burning up over the Pacific Ocean during atmospheric reentry.
Today's mission is the second of three ISS cargo ships expected to launch within three weeks, as NASA and its international partners continue to stockpile the station following the losses of a Cygnus, Soyuz and Dragon spacecraft within the span of a single year. On April 8—the same day Progress M-29M falls back to Earth—a SpaceX Dragon is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral.