A Russian cargo ship linked up with the International Space Station on Wednesday to deliver tons of vital supplies after a swift, six-hour trip to the orbiting outpost.
The unmanned Progress 55 spacecraft linked up with the space station at 5:14 p.m. ET, nearly six hours after launching into orbit atop a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan.
The Progress 55 spacecraft performed flawlessly during a "silky smooth six-hour adventure," NASA spokesman Rob Navias said on NASA TV. [See photos of the Progress 55's launch to the space station]
Russian space officials applauded the docking success, with the space station's cosmonauts hailing Progress 55 as "a great present for Cosmonautics Day." April 12 is Cosmonautics Day in Russia, a holiday that celebrates the 1961 launch of Yuri Gagarin on the world's first human spaceflight.
Progress 55 (also known as the Progress M-23M) brought 1,764 pounds of propellant, 926 pounds of water, 105 pounds of oxygen and 3,126 pounds of food, science experiments and other supplies for the station's six crew members. The crew includes NASA's Rick Mastracchio and Steve Swanson; Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov, Mikhail Tyurin and Oleg Artemyev; and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.
Russia's Progress vehicles have been making the six-hour trips to the station since 2012. The Soyuz capsules that ferry astronauts and cosmonauts to and from the station have done the same express flight since last year. Before the fast-track trips, Progress and Soyuz spacecraft took two days to reach the station.
When Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev launched from Baikonur about two weeks ago, they were expected to make an express trip to the station; however, due to a slight issue with the positioning of the Soyuz after launch, they instead took two days to dock with the space station.
— Miriam Kramer, Space.com