Russian Cargo Ship Blasts Off for Space Station

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An unmanned Russian cargo ship launched into orbit Friday after a two-day delay on a mission to deliver fresh food and other supplies to the International Space Station crew.

The Progress 39 spacecraft blasted off from the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:22 a.m. EDT (1022 GMT) with more than 2 tons of supplies for the station crew. The launch had been delayed from Wednesday due to high winds at the launch site.

Known in Russia as Progress M-07M, the automated space freighter will dock at the International Space Station Sunday at 7:58 a.m. EDT (1158 GMT).

Packed aboard the Progress 39 are 1,918 pounds (870 kg) of propellant, 110 pounds (50 kg) of oxygen, 375 pounds (170 kg) of water and 2,645 pounds (1,200 kg) of spare parts, experiment gear and other vital supplies, NASA officials have said.

Progress 39's space station arrival is coming on the heels of the departure of an older Progress cargo vessel, which left the orbiting lab on Aug. 31 to make way for the new delivery ship. That older ship, Progress 38, burned up in the Earth's atmosphere on Sept. 6 as planned.

Russia's Progress cargo ships are similar to the country's manned Soyuz spacecraft, but do not have a re-entry capsule for the return to Earth. Instead, they carry a fuel pod and are built to be disposed of in Earth's atmosphere.

The supplies on Progress 39 will support the six people living aboard the space station.

The station's crew is currently made up of three Americans from NASA and three Russians representing the Federal Space Agency, but that will soon change.

Half of the crew will depart the space station on Sept. 23 to end a six-month mission that began in April. The three station crewmembers left behind are flying their own six-month mission, which began in June. They will be joined by another three-person crew later this month.

The $100 billion International Space Station has been under construction since 1998 and is nearly complete, with the final assembly mission slated to fly in February 2011. Astronaut crews have been flying to and from the station since 2000.

The next space shuttle mission to visit the station is slated to launch Nov. 1. That mission on the shuttle Discovery will deliver a new storage room and humanoid robot assistant for the station crew.

NASA will broadcast the Progress 39 cargo ship's arrival at the International Space Station live on NASA TV Sunday at 7:15 a.m. ET. for space station mission updates and's NASA TV link.