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Just In Time for Xmas: Russian Spacecraft Makes Delivery to ISS

A robotic Russian cargo ship made it to the International Space Station just in time for Christmas.

Russia's uncrewed Progress 62 freighter docked with an Earth-facing port on the orbiting lab on Wednesday morning, two days after blasting off atop a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The six astronauts currently living aboard the space station will soon begin unloading the 2.8 tons of supplies that Progress 62 carried to space. The cargo ship will remain attached to the orbiting lab for about six months, and then will be loaded up with trash and sent off to burn up in Earth's atmosphere.

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The Progress is one of four different robotic vehicles that currently ferry supplies up to the space station. The other three are Japan's H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) and the Cygnus and Dragon spacecraft, which were developed by the American spaceflight companies Orbital ATK and SpaceX, respectively.

Orbital ATK holds a $1.9 billion deal to make eight flights to the station for NASA using Cygnus and the company's Antares rocket. SpaceX signed a similar contract that pays the company $1.6 billion to complete at least 12 missions using Dragon and SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.

The Progress, HTV and Cygnus vehicles are all expendable, but Dragon is designed to survive re-entry and can therefore bring cargo down from the orbiting lab.

Progress 62
Russia's Progress 62 cargo ship arrives at the International Space Station on Dec. 23, 2015 delivering food, supplies and other equipment just in time for Christmas. Roscosmos (Russian Federal Space Agency)

Three of these four freighters suffered mission failures in the past 14 months. In October 2014, Orbital ATK's third contracted resupply flight ended just seconds after liftoff when the Antares exploded. The Cygnus made a successful return-to-flight mission earlier this month, delivering more than 7,000 pounds of supplies to the station on December 9.

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The Progress 59 mission experienced serious problems shortly after its launch on April 28, 2015, and never attempted to dock with the station. And SpaceX's seventh cargo run failed less than three minutes after launch on June 28, when the Falcon 9 broke apart, apparently because of a faulty steel strut in the rocket's upper stage.

This is a condensed version of an article that appeared on Space.com. Read the original here. Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+.

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