HOUSTON — Russia’s Progress 49 unmanned resupply capsule docked with the International Space Station early Oct. 31, following a six-hr. flight from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazkhstan, marking the second accelerated cargo transit flown within the past three months.

The freighter and its nearly 5,800 lb. of propellant, water, compressed air and oxygen, spare parts and research gear carried out an automated linkup at 9:33 a.m. EDT.

Typically flown over two-plus days, the faster Progress missions are setting the stage for possible accelerated Soyuz crew transport operations next year.

They would eliminate the uncomfortable spacecraft “barbecue roll” used as a thermal control strategy over the longer Soyuz flights. The accelerated missions also would increase the life support margins available to station crewmembers during the descent phase of Soyuz crew transport missions.

The faster transits reprise those launched by the former Soviet Union to service its manned Salyut space stations between 1971 and 1986. NASA’s two astronaut Gemini VI and VII missions pioneered the four-orbit rendezvous in December 1965.

Progress 49 began its pursuit of the six-person space station with a liftoff at 3:41 a.m. EDT. The ascent was visible to the station astronauts as they flew over Central Asia.

“We saw it out the window,” Sunita Williams, the station’s commander, informed NASA’s Mission Control. “That’s pretty special.”

The latest Russian freighter docked with the Zvezda service module, which has been vacant since the European Space Agency’s ATV-3 departed on Sept. 28. The new Progress will serve as a propulsion source for ISS altitude raising and debris avoidance maneuvers until its scheduled departure in April.

Russia’s first “four orbit” Progress supply mission to the ISS unfolded successfully on Aug. 1. Berthed to the Pirs docking port, the Progress 48 capsule is scheduled to depart in February.