A Russian cargo spacecraft was safely deployed in orbit this morning, setting the stage for the launch of a new crew to the International Space Station in two weeks.
A Soyuz-U booster blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:11 a.m. EDT today, launching a Progress vehicle for the first time since an early third-stage engine shutdown doomed a mission Aug. 24.
No problems were reported this time with the nearly nine-mintue climb to orbit.
"Today went like a dream, by the book," said NASA TV commentator Rob Navias.
The Progress 45 spacecraft is loaded with nearly three tons of food, water, fuel and supplies. It's scheduled to dock at the station's Pirs compartment at 7:40 a.m. EDT Wednesday.
Meanwhile, NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and two Russian cosmonauts, Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov, on Monday will head from their Russian training center to Bainkonur to get ready for a late Nov. 13 launch.
Their Soyuz spacecraft launches on a similar booster to the one used by Progress vehicles, and wouldn't have been cleared to fly if today's launch experienced any setbacks.
A Nov. 13 launch of the new crew would ensure that the station remains continuously staffed, with no interruption when the current three-person crew returns to Earth Nov. 21.