Russian cargo ship heads for space station, loaded with 2-and-a-half tons of supplies and equipment

A Russian Progress cargo ship blasted off from Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz booster late Sunday, carrying 2-and-a-half tons of supplies and equipment bound for the International Space Station. Under a gloomy overcast sky, launch from Site 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome came at 11:45 p.m. EST (10:45 a.m. Monday local time) when the Soyuz 2.1a booster’s core stage and strap-on boosters ignited with a rush of flaming exhaust.

Eight minutes and 45 seconds after liftoff, the rocket’s third stage shut down and fell away and a few seconds later, the cargo ship’s solar arrays and antennas unfolded and locked in place as planned.

If all goes well, the Progress MS-16/77P cargo ship will carry out an automated 33-orbit rendezvous with the space station, catching up and closing in for docking at Russia’s Earth-facing Pirs module around 1:20 a.m. Wednesday.

On board: 5,424 pounds of equipment and supplies, including 3,086 pounds of dry cargo, 1,322 pounds of propellant, 926 pounds of water and 89 pounds of compressed gas.

Later this year, the Progress will be used to pull the Pirs module away from the station, clearing the way for attachment of a new Russian laboratory module.