A Russian spacecraft has set a new speed record for sending cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).
Russian freighters and spacecraft carrying crews usually take at least six hours and four orbits around Earth to reach the space station. Elon Musk’s SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo supplier and Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus take several days to reach the station.
This time around, the Russian Progress freighter travelled from Earth to the ISS in three hours and 40 minutes. Carrying almost three tons of fuel, air, tools, food and care packages for the crew, the Progress completed only two orbits around the planet before docking at the station.
Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, attributed the speedy delivery time and fewer loops around the Earth’s orbit to the improved capacity of the Soyuz 2.1 carrier rocket.
NASA predicted the freighter’s “expedited capability ... may be used on future Russian cargo and crew launches” in its coverage of the Russian cargo spacecraft’s launch last week.
The Progress carrier will stay docked to the ISS until January 2019, when it will be stuffed with trash and sent to burn up in the atmosphere, the Space.com website reports.