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Russian cargo ship blasts off for space station

Image: Progress launch
A Russian Progress M-06M cargo ship carrying supplies for the International Space Station blasts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome atop a Soyuz rocket on Wednesday.AFP - Getty Images
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A Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off Wednesday carrying a new robotic cargo ship filled with tons of supplies for astronauts living on the International Space Station.

The Soyuz rocket soared into space at 11:35 a.m. ET from the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying the unmanned Progress 38 cargo ship toward the space station. The robotic space freighter will dock at the station on Friday.

"Progress 38, on its way to the International Space Station," a NASA mission commentator said after the flawless launch.

Known in Russia as Progress M-06M, the new Progress 38 spacecraft is packed with nearly 2.5 tons of fresh food, clothes, equipment and other supplies for the space station's six-person crew.

Packed aboard the spacecraft are 1,918 pounds (nearly 870 kilograms) of propellant for the station, 110 pounds (nearly 50 kilogram) of oxygen, 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of water and 2,667 pounds (1,209 kilograms) pounds of dry cargo including spare parts, science equipment and other supplies.

About 213 pounds (97 kilograms) of the delivery ship's cargo is earmarked as items for the station crew. Astronauts always look forward to fresh fruit and other foods that arrive on Progress spacecraft, NASA officials have said.

Some personal treats for the station astronauts are sometimes included, but NASA officials kept mum on anything unique riding on Progress 38.  "Anything that would be of interest is probably a surprise," NASA spokesperson Kelly Humphries told from the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The International Space Station is currently home to six people: Three Americans representing NASA and three Russian cosmonauts representing Russia's Federal Space Agency.

Progress 38 is scheduled to dock at the International Space Station on Friday at 12:58 p.m. ET. The cargo ship will park at an aft docking port on the station's Russian-built Zvezda module.

Earlier this week, the station crew moved one of its two Soyuz spacecraft from the Zvezda docking port to a different parking spot to clear the berth for the incoming cargo ship.

Russia's disposable Progress spacecraft are similar in appearance to the three-module Soyuz space taxis that ferry crews to and from the space station.

Both vehicles have a propulsion and orbital module, however Progress vehicles do not have a crew-carrying module like the Soyuz ships. Instead, Progress vehicles are equipped with a propellant module to store fuel for the space station's maneuvering thrusters.