Russia sends resupply mission to International Space Station

A Russian Progress cargo spacecraft is shown docking to the International Space Station in 2019. A new resupply ship by Russia launched toward the space station on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of NASA/UPI

Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Russia launched an automated cargo supply spaceship to the International Space Station, with three tons of food and other items.

A Soyuz-2.1a rocket launched the Progress MS-26 carrier ship into orbit early Thursday morning local time, Russia's state-run news agency TASS reported.

The Russia resupply spaceship is also delivering nearly 1,300 pounds of refueling propellant, 110 pounds of potable water and nearly 90 pounds of compressed nitrogen in cylinders.

The space freighter is expected to reach the ISS on Saturday and dock with the Zvezda module after blasting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday night.

Progress joins SpaceX's Dragon and Northrop Grumman's Cygnus as the only unmanned supply ships that transfer goods and experiments to the International Space Station. While the Progress and Cygnus were designed to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere on returning, the Dragon is reusable.

On Feb. 1, the Cygnus delivered 8,200 pounds of supplies and science experiments to the International Space Station. One of the experiments included the various tests of 3D printers in microgravity, particularly in the making of small metal products.

The usefulness of 3D printers is seen as valuable for future travel such as long-term stays on the Moon and travel to Mars where astronauts may need to make items on the spots.

According to NASA, more than 260 individuals from 20 countries have visited the International Space Station since the first long-term residents in 2000.