A few hours ago the Progress MS-3 spacecraft blasted off atop a Soyuz U rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. After about nine minutes it separated successfully from the rocket’s last stage and was placed on its route. The cargo spacecraft began its resupply mission to the International Space Station also called Progress 64. The spacecraft was launched in the route that requires two days of travel.
The mission of the Progress MS-3 spacecraft is part of the International Space Station supply program and is the third to use the new version of the Progress space cargo ship. The Russian space agency Roscosmos has already implemented the new systems also to the manned Soyuz spacecraft with the first journey launched on July 6, 2016.
The Progress MS-3 cargo spacecraft carries a total of about 2.4 tons (about 5,300 lbs) of various types of cargo including food, water, air, oxygen, fuel and more. There are also various scientific experiments, tools, hardware of various kinds and an unspecified amount of CubeSat class nanosatellites to be put into orbit.
Usually nanosatellites are launched from the International Space Station but on this mission for the first time a new direct deployment system will be used from the Progress MS-3 freighter. Four containers are installed on the spacecraft’s exterior and may contain a total of 24 CubeSat units that have a 10 cm (4″) side. CubeSat class nanosatellites can also be composed of 2 or 3 units so the total number of satellites to be deployed also depends on their characteristics.
Generally the Russian spacecraft travelling to the International Space Station use fast path that requires a six-hour journey. Instead, the Progress MS-3 space cargo ship was launched into the route that requires two days, as has already happened for the previous Progress MS-1 and MS-2 and for the Soyuz MS-01. For now Roscosmos keeps on using that route and for this reason the spacecraft is scheduled to reach the Station on Tuesday, shortly after 00:20 UTC.