3-plus-hour supply trip from Earth to International Space Station breaks record

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Russia’s Progress 72 resupply ship is pictured approaching the International Space Station’s Pirs docking compartment carrying 3.7 tons of food, fuel, and supplies for the Expedition 59 crew. NASA

A resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has made record time, traveling from Earth to the space station in just three hours and 21 minutes. The Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket with a Progress MS-11 cargo spaceship was launched from the Russian space Agency Roscosmos’ Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:01 a.m. on Thursday, April 4.

The super speedy travel time was possible due to a change in how resupply craft approach the ISS. Before, the resupply craft would have to orbit around the Earth dozens of times in order to catch up with the speed of the space station. But now there is a “fast-track” launch which allows the craft to catch up to the station in just two rotations. The resupply craft is launched less than a minute before the space station passes overhead of the launch site, so the craft can catch up to the station more quickly.

Nick Hague, an astronaut aboard the ISS, tweeted his approval of the achievement. “The progress resupply vehicle made record timing as it launched and docked to the station in under three and a half hours,” he said. “Pretty impressive!” The people of Twitter were impressed too. “…quicker than JFK-LAX!” one person commented.

The docking of the Progress resupply craft was welcomed by Flight Engineer Christina Koch for another reason as well: “Glad to have another 3.7 tons of supplies and science joining us!” she shared on Twitter.

The ISS requires regular resupply, with the six astronauts aboard (three from NASA, two from Russian Roscosmos, and one from Canadian CSA) needing deliveries of food including occasional treats like fresh fruits and ice cream. The resupply craft also carry scientific equipment, computer components, and spacewalk equipment.

The organizers of ISS will surely be particularly attuned to the availability of spacewalk equipment after public outcry when the first all-female spacewalk was cancelled last month due to a lack of correctly sized spacesuits being available.

If you like the idea of getting personal updates from astronauts currently in orbit around Earth, you can follow Nick Hague on Twitter (under the delightful handle “AstroHague”) and his NASA colleagues Christina H Koch and Anne McClain.

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