Image: Progress launch
A Soyuz-U rocket blasts the Progress 15 cargo ship into orbit Wednesday, on its way to a rendezvous with the international space station.
updated 8/11/2004 1:50:29 PM ET 2004-08-11T17:50:29

A new cargo ship bearing clothes, new equipment and chocolates is on its way to the international space station after a successful morning launch from the steppes of Kazakhstan.

The Progress 15 supply vehicle rocketed away from its launch pad at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1:03 a.m. ET Wednesday. The station-bound spacecraft will dock at the space station on Saturday. The space station was just southwest of Baikonur, 230 miles (370 kilometers) overhead, during the launch, NASA officials said.

Russian mission controllers said Progress 15's flight will take about 24 hours longer than the typical two days to reach the space station in an effort to save fuel before docking at the aft port of the station's Zvezda service module.

Progress 15 is the second cargo ship aimed at refueling and resupplying the crew of the station's Expedition 9, commanded by Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka with NASA astronaut Michael Fincke as flight engineer. They arrived at the station April 21 and are scheduled to return to Earth in October.

While the cargo ship is filled mostly with water and fuel, it is also laden with care packages, clothes and other items intended to provide psychological support for the Expedition 9 crew.

"The Progress will bring the crew DVDs, both feature and documentary films," Olga Kozyrenko, chief of the psychological team at Russia's Institute of Medical and Biological Studies, told the Russian news agency Interfax. The cargo pod also includes linen and work clothes requested by the station's crew, as well as the traditional box of chocolates that rides up with each Progress flight.

NASA officials said the resupply mission also include spare pumps for a set of U.S. spacesuits that have been experiencing cooling system problems. The Expedition 9 crew has been working with station mission controls in attempts to troubleshoot the malfunction and return the space suits to working order.

NASA TV will provide live coverage of Progress 15's arrival at the space station, which is scheduled for 1:02 a.m. ET on Saturday. Live coverage begins an hour earlier, at midnight ET.

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