Russian spacecraft filled with crew supplies docks at space station
NEW YORK — After a series of failed resupply missions, the International Space Station finally got a load of supplies on Sunday when a Russian spacecraft filled with assorted goodies for the crew docked at the station.
The unmanned rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday. It carried 6,100 pounds of food, fuel, water, oxygen and other supplies.
“Crew reports, ‘feels like Christmas in July,'” the International Space Station tweeted.
While such missions are usually routine, past spacecraft resupply attempts have failed, making this one especially crucial.
In late June, an unmanned SpaceX rocket carrying a supply capsule exploded shortly after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
It was carrying a spacesuit, water filtration equipment, crew provisions, food, water and student experiments. It was unclear what caused the rocket to fail, but a Federal Aviation Administration investigation is underway.
Three space station astronauts — Cmdr. Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko of Russia and NASA’s Scott Kelly — had been awaiting SpaceX’s shipment.
Another Russian rocket, Progress 59, went out of control after launch in April and burned up on re-entry in May. It had crew clothing, spacewalk hardware, propellant, oxygen and water, among other supplies.
But wait, there’s more.
In October, another rocket carrying crew provisions had to be destroyed when a problem developed after launch.
Crew awaiting supplies
NASA says the crew on the space station has enough supplies to last until October, even without the gear on the latest rocket.
“The space station crew is fine on orbit,” NASA’s William Gerstenmaier said. “They’ve done a tremendous job of balancing all the consumables on orbit. We’re in good shape from a food standpoint.”
However, he said, the crew will need to watch water levels. One of the most important items lost in the SpaceX explosion was a piece of equipment that filters water.
“Even without processed water, we have enough water supplies on orbit until late 2015,” NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz said.
Kelly and Kornienko are taking part in what NASA calls “The One-Year Crew.” They’re living on the space station for about a year to explore the effects of long-term space flight on the human body.
Three more crew members are scheduled to go to the space station on a Russian spacecraft this month.
The space station
The station orbits about 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth. It circles the planet every 90 minutes.
Astronauts living there mostly conduct experiments, NASA said. The station measures 357 feet from end to end and is larger than a six-bedroom house.