updated 8/11/2004 9:52:37 AM ET 2004-08-11T13:52:37

A Russian cargo ship loaded with supplies and equipment blasted off from the Baikonour cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday headed for the international space station, a Russian space official said.

The Progress M-50 ship took off at 1:03 a.m. EDT and was expected to dock on Saturday morning with the orbiting station, where Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and American astronaut Michael Fincke have been working since April 21.

Olga Soshnikova, a spokeswoman for the Russian space agency, said the cargo ship would take 24 hours longer than usual to arrive and would not use its engines when it docks with the station, in an experiment to try to save fuel.

In addition to food, water and fuel for the station, the Progress was also was carrying magazines and DVDs for the station's onboard theater.

Padalka and Fincke are on a six-month stint at the station, whose assembly has been on hold since the U.S. space shuttle Columbia disaster in February 2003.

Russia and the United States agreed to split the costs of sending men and material to the space station, but only Russian spacecraft have been used since the shuttle disaster; the Progress is the third Russian resupply ship sent this year.

NASA officials say they hope to resume shuttle flights next spring.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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