Russia will launch a robotic cargo mission to the International Space Station early Friday morning (June 3), and you can watch the action live.
The uncrewed Progress 81 freighter is scheduled to lift off atop a Russian Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Friday at 5:32 a.m. EDT (0932 GMT). Watch it live here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA, or directly via the space agency; coverage will begin at 5:15 a.m. EDT (0915 GMT).
Progress 81 is carrying about three tons of food, propellant and equipment up to the International Space Station (ISS). And those supplies will be delivered quickly, if all goes according to plan: The freighter will catch up to the ISS after completing just two orbits of Earth, docking with the orbiting lab at 9:02 a.m. EDT (1302 GMT) on Friday, if all goes according to plan.
Related: How Russia’s Progress spaceships work (infographic)
You can watch rendezvous and docking live, too; coverage of those activities will begin at 8:15 a.m. EDT (1215 GMT).
Many of Russia’s space partnerships have fallen apart in the wake of the nation’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Soyuz rockets no longer launch from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, for example, and Russia stopped selling Russian-made rocket engines to American companies. But Russia remains an integral part of the ISS program, as the Progress 81 launch shows.
Progress 81 will be followed in relatively short succession by another cargo flight — SpaceX’s robotic CRS-25 mission, which is scheduled to launch next Thursday (June 9). And the ISS was recently visited by another uncrewed spacecraft as well — Boeing’s Starliner capsule, which conducted a crucial test flight to the orbiting lab from May 19 to May 25.
That May mission, called Orbital Test Flight 2 (OFT-2), was likely the last big hurdle that Boeing had to clear before NASA certifies Starliner to carry astronauts. The capsule’s first crewed flight could come before the end of the year, provided analysis of OFT-2 data turns up nothing worrisome, Boeing and NASA officials have said.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).