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Russian space freighter carries supplies to orbital station


MOSCOW, February 10 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian cargo spacecraft has successfully separated from its carrier rocket and is heading toward the International Space Station (ISS) according to schedule, Russia's Mission Control official said on Tuesday.

Progress M-66 took off from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan at 8:49 a.m. Moscow time (05:49 GMT) on board a Soyuz-U carrier rocket.

"The separation of the spacecraft was carried out on schedule and in line with regular procedures," the official said.

The spacecraft, which is carrying 2.4 tons of supplies, including oxygen, food, clothes and medical equipment for the crew, is due to dock with the ISS at 10:19 a.m. Moscow time (07:19 GMT) on February 13.

The current ISS crew comprises its U.S. commander, Michael Fincke, Russian engineer Yury Lonchakov and U.S. engineer Sandra Magnus.

Progress M-66 is one of the last cargo spacecraft equipped with analog control systems. The next generation of Progress vehicles will be digitally-controlled.

The launch was conducted for the first time in many years from launch pad No. 31, which is to serve as an alternative launch site for the main pad in Baikonur. The refit of the second facility was made necessary by Russia's record number of planned launches this year.

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