A Russian booster rocket has successfully launched an unmanned cargo ship to the International Space Station, whose crew is anxiously awaiting it after the successive failures of two previous supply missions. A Soyuz-U rocket blasted off flawlessly from the Russian-leased Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan today, placing the Progress M-28M ship into a designated orbit, safely en route to the station. On Sunday, it's set to dock at the station currently manned by Russians Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko and NASA's Scott Kelly. The ship is carrying 2.4 metric tons of fuel, oxygen, water, food, and other supplies for the crew, the Russian space agency Roscosmos says.
The previous Progress launch in April ended in failure, and on Sunday, a US supply mission failed too when SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket broke apart shortly after liftoff. The mishaps were preceded by last October's launch pad failure of Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket, also carrying station cargo for NASA. Despite the failures, NASA says the station is well-stocked, with enough supplies for the crew to last at least until October. However, the trouble-free launch today was essential for the station program, which has exclusively relied on Russian spacecraft for ferrying crews after the grounding of the US shuttle fleet.