Progress Resupply Vessel Fails To Dock With ISS
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Russia’ Progress M-15M cargo ship, which had been docked with the International Space Station (ISS) since late April, has failed to re-dock with the orbiting lab during a test of new docking gear for Russian flights, according to US and Russian space agencies on Tuesday.
The new automated docking gear is meant to simplify missions to the ISS, but after Tuesday’s failure, doubts remain. The agencies said they would attempt another docking procedure on Sunday, after the Japanese HTV-3 spacecraft reaches the station and is manually moored by crew aboard the lab.
A statement on NASA’s website confirmed the re-docking failure and stated it had “been postponed due to an apparent failure in the new Kurs-NA rendezvous system.”
Kurs-NA is an upgrade to the Kurs docking gear which has been successfully used to dock Russia’s Soyuz and Progress ships. The new system features updated electronics and is designed to improve safety and use less energy, NASA said in its statement.
A spokesman for Russian Mission Control Center (MCC) also confirmed to AFP there was a docking failure, but declined to provide further details. But did reveal that the Progress cargo vessel would be maneuvered to a distance of 300 miles to the ISS before another docking attempt would be made.
State-run news agency RIA-Novosti, citing a source from the space agency, said if a second attempt failed, the crew would use the old system to berth the cargo ship to the ISS. “The ship has the time-tested Kurs system with which the ship was docked to the ISS on April 22.”
“If repeated attempts to test the Kurs-NA modernized version do not succeed then Progress M-15M would either be docked using the regular Kurs (rendezvous system) or taken off the orbit and sunk,” the source was quoted as saying. “In any case, the ship has performed its task — it has delivered goods to the station as planned and has been loaded with waste.”
Engineers have probed the cause of the re-docking failure and have stressed that the Progress ship was still under full control and there is no danger to the ISS and its crew of six.
Russia’s space agency Roscosmos said the beginning of the procedure went smoothly, but the system issued a command to stop further operations at 4:22 a.m. (Moscow time) when the freighter was about 96 miles from the ISS.
“Experts of an emergencies group are analyzing the situation and they will provide recommendations on what should be done next,” Roscosmos said.
Russia has been plagued with a series of technical problems and mission misfortunes which have resulted in the loss of several satellites, including the Phobos-Grunt, and a Progress re-supply vessel that was bound for the ISS last year.
Russia’s next Progress re-supply ship is scheduled to launch August 1 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.