The Russian Progress MS-09 cargo spacecraft has broken the record for the fastest rendezvous with the International Space (ISS) ever. The spacecraft rendezvoused with the ISS less than four hours after it launched aboard a Soyuz carrier rocket.
The Soyuz-2.1a rocket carrying the Progress MS-09 spacecraft lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 21:51 GMT on Monday, July 9 (00:51 on July 10 local time). As the Soyuz rocket lifted off, the ISS was passing over around 590 kilometers (370 miles) southwest of the launch site. Once in orbit, the station was just 1.615 kilometers (1,004 miles) ahead allowing for the record-breaking rendezvous.
At 01:31 GMT on July 10, the Progress MS-09 cargo spacecraft successfully docked with the station’s Peris module. Aboard the spacecraft is 2,566 kilograms (5,658 pounds) of food, water, dry cargo, fuel and “care packages for the astronauts”.
This is the third attempt to successfully perform the “two-orbit rendezvous” technique. The first two attempts had to be aborted due to poor weather conditions. The technique requires a precise launch window and missing it by even a few seconds requires the attempt to be aborted.
Although today’s rendezvous was fast by ISS standards, it is still well short of the all-time record. The fastest orbital rendezvous ever was performed by the Soviets in 1968. On April 15 that year, the Kosmos-213 (an early unmanned Soyuz test spacecraft) rendezvoused with another unmanned Soyuz spacecraft just 47 minutes after liftoff.
Featured image credit: ROSCOSMOS