A Proton-M rocket carrying Russia’s new Nauka science module to the International Space Station (ISS) took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, the Roscosmos space agency said.
Images released by the Russian space agency show the rocket taking off at 14:58 GMT to orbit the first Russian module to be assembled on the ISS in 11 years.
The trip to the orbital station will last eight days: Nauka (“Science” in Russian) is expected to dock on July 29 at the main module, according to Roscosmos.
Assembly of Nauka, with a total weight of 20 tonnes, began in the 1990s but its launch, initially scheduled for 2007, has been constantly delayed.
If the trip goes well, Nauka will replace after twenty years of service the Pirs module, which is expected to detach from the ISS on Friday and burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.
Nauka is first and foremost a laboratory module but it will also provide “additional volumes for workstations and cargo storage, locations for water and oxygen regeneration equipment,” Roscosmos said.
It will also “improve the living conditions of cosmonauts, by providing an additional toilet and a third sleeping place for the Russian part of the ISS”.