Russia launches space freighter to ISS

MOSCOW, February 5 (RIA Novosti) - Russia launched on Tuesday a Soyuz-U rocket carrying a cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, a Mission Control spokesman said.

The Progress M-63 space freighter will deliver 2.5 metric tons of cargo, including food, equipment and other supplies, for the ISS.

Automatic docking with the orbital station has been set for 2:38 p.m. GMT on February 7.

The current, 16th expedition on board the ISS comprises U.S. astronauts Peggy Whitson and Daniel Tani, and Russia's Yury Malenchenko.

NASA said on Monday that the repeatedly-delayed Atlantis space shuttle launch had been set for February 7.

During the upcoming mission, the crew members will carry out three spacewalks, installing and activating the $2 billion Columbus space laboratory, which has taken some 10 years to construct and is Europe's main contribution to the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS crew will also see a new face, with flight engineer Daniel Tani being replaced by European Space Agency astronaut Leopold Eyharts.

The flight has been repeatedly delayed since December 6 over problems with faulty fuel tank sensors and a radiator hose. The launch of the 24th shuttle mission to the ISS is still uncertain, however, due to weather concerns making yet another delay extremely likely.

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