UPDATE: Looks like the launch went well. Progress is in orbit, solar arrays deployed.
Russia’s preparing to launch a critical Progress resupply mission containing more than 3 tons of food, fuel, water, oxygen and other supplies to the International Space Station on Friday. The launch of Progress M-28M is set for 0455 GMT (12:55 a.m. EDT).
Progress flights usually attract little attention. However, this flight is seen a crucial following the loss of SpaceX’s Dragon freighter last summer in a launch accident. It was the third launch failure involving an ISS resupply ship in eight months.
On April 28, a Progress vehicle began tumbling out of control after it reached orbit. The mission was eventually abandoned. Last Oct. 28, an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket exploded shortly after liftoff, destroying a Cygnus cargo ship.
Russians officials have blamed a problem with the third stage of the Soyuz-2.1a rocket for the Progress failure. For this launch, they have switched to a Soyuz-U launch vehicle that is not susceptible to the same problem.
The resupply ship is scheduled to arrive on Sunday at 0713 GMT (3:13 a.m. EDT) with an automatic docking to the space station’s Pirs compartment.