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MOSCOW, October 31 (Itar-Tass) — A Russian resupply spacecraft Progress is to blast off from Baikonur on Wednesday to bring supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) for the Station and the crew faster than usual.
"The launch of the carrier rocket Soyuz-U with the Progress M-17M resupply spacecraft attached to it from Gagarin's launch site is scheduled for 11:41, Moscow time, on Wednesday," an official in the Federal Space Agency told Itar-Tass.
The spacecraft is to dock with the ISS within a space of six hours (at 17:40, Moscow time) on October 31. Earlier, Progress spacecraft used to deliver supplies to orbit within 48 or even 72 hours after the launch.
"We have available two docking control technologies: after six hours and after 25 hours," an expert of the Mission Control Center (MCC) pointed out. He said specialists "have been engaging in developing a new docking configuration for several years, testing it on Earth and discussing it with the cosmonauts". If the spacecraft fails to dock with the ISS after six hours of journey, it would switch over to a 48-hour configuration, the expert specified.
The six-hour flight technology (with the spacecraft making four revolutions around the Earth -- Note by Itar-Tass) was first applied in August this year by the Progress M-16M spacecraft and went off successfully.
The Progress M-17M will carry more than 2.5 tonnes of supplies for the Station and the crew. The supplies include fuel, equipment for the Station, oxygen, water, clothers, and foodstuffs for the cosmonauts.
The spacecraft will also deliver parcels from families and presents to the crews. The cosmonauts will also get fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as candies and other sweets from psychologists and relatives.
Currenlty working in orbit are three Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky, Yevgeny Tarelkin, and Yuri Malenchenko, as well as NASA astronauts Sunita Williams, Kevin Ford, and astronaut Akihiko Hoshide of the Japanese space agency JAXA.
The Progress M-17M spacecraft is to moor by the systems bay of the service module Zvezda (star) at 17:40, Moscow time, in an automatic mode. If the attempt proves unsuccessul, a docking maneuver is to be repeated at 10:56 on November 2.