A closely watched Russian supply mission to the International Space Station had a successful takeoff from a base in Kazakhstan on Thursday night.
The Progress M-28M lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9:55 p.m. Pacific time.
The capsule contains three tons of food, fuel and other supplies delivered through a pressurized cargo module, which will also allow the crew to transfer garbage, wastewater and unwanted equipment back to the Progress.
The Progress mission took on new urgency after three supply missions to the space station have failed since last October -- including Sunday’s SpaceX explosion over the coast of Florida.
NASA officials downplayed the importance of this Russian launch and said the astronauts aboard the space station are in no real danger of running out of food or water anytime soon. Current supplies should last crew members through October, and three additional supply missions are scheduled this year.
But space industry experts said further setbacks could prompt members of Congress and the public to second-guess NASA’s plans.
“They need to get into a rhythm of successful launches,” said Marco Caceres, an aerospace industry analyst with Teal Group.
There is concern that any failures during the Progress mission will cause delays to the Soyuz TMA-17M mission, scheduled to launch in less than three weeks. That mission, which uses a similar rocket, is to take three astronauts -- one each from the U.S., Russia and Japan -- to the space station.
“Delays cost money and cause a lack of confidence,” Caceres said.
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