Russia has successfully launched the long-delayed heavy-lift Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The rocket carried a 44,000-pound laboratory module into orbit for an eight-day flight to the International Space Station. Nine minutes and 40 seconds after its launch, the unpiloted Nauka module, also called the multi-purpose laboratory module, or MLM, separated from the Proton's upper stage, deployed its solar arrays.
The trip will take eight days to complete; the engineers and flight controllers will check out and test the new module in space and clear a docking port on the space station. Russian flight controllers will be detaching the two-decades-old Pirs docking and airlock compartment currently connected to a port on the Earth-facing side of the station's aft Zvezda module.
Following the removal of Pirs, NASA's Canadian-built robot arm will thoroughly carry out a detailed photo inspection of the Zvezda docking port to ensure that there is no debris present, which might prevent an airtight seal with Nauka arrives. After the inspections, and if there are no problems found with Nauka or the docking port, the lab module will complete its rendezvous with the space station next Thursday.