As the Station flew over the Red Sea, the ISS Progress 13 craft lifted off its Central Asian launch pad right on time at 5:58 a.m. CST (1158 GMT), and less than 10 minutes later, settled into orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas. Its computers are loaded with preprogrammed commands for engine firings and rendezvous maneuvers that will lead it to an automated linkup to the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module on Saturday morning at 7:15 a.m. CST (1315 GMT).
The Progress 13 docking to the ISS will be broadcast live on NASA Television on Saturday beginning at 6:30 a.m. CST (1230 GMT).
The launch of the new resupply vehicle occurred a little over 24 hours after an identical Progress ship departed the ISS. The ISS Progress 12 undocked Wednesday from Zvezda at 2:36 a.m. CST (0836 GMT) and was later commanded to plunge back into the atmosphere where it burned up. The old Progress was filled with trash and other items no longer needed on board the Station.
The new Progress is loaded with spare parts, fresh food and fuel for Expedition 8 Commander and NASA Science Officer Mike Foale and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri, who are in the fourth month of a planned 61/2-month mission on the ISS. The Progress is also carrying scientific equipment for European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers of the Netherlands, who is scheduled to be launched April 19 with the new Expedition 9 crew to the ISS. Kuipers will spend a little over a week conducting an independent science program under a commercial contract between ESA and the Russian Aviation and Space Agency. Kuipers will return to Earth in late April on a Soyuz vehicle with Foale and Kaleri.
The crew had a busy week, focusing on packing the Progress 12 with trash from the Station. Crewmembers also performed scientific experiments and regular station maintenance.
On Monday, Foale worked to set up the EarthKAM (Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle Schools) experiment in the Zvezda Service Module. More than 50 schools in Europe, Asia and South America, participated in an Earth observation session beginning Tuesday, requesting photos of specific locations and receiving those photos via the Internet to study geography, geology, botany and Earth science.
Also on Tuesday, the crew closed the hatch to the Progress 12 vehicle for the final time, and took a few minutes to talk to National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue during his tour of the Mission Control Center. Tagliabue is in Houston for Sunday's Super Bowl XXXVIII. On Wednesday, Foale chatted with members of the rock band Aerosmith during their tour of the control center. The band will perform during the Super Bowl pregame show, which will include a tribute to NASA and Columbia crewmembers on the anniversary of the shuttle accident.