Russian Progress 49 Cargo Ship Docks With Space Station
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
After a successful launch at 3:41 a.m. (local time) Wednesday morning from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Russia´s Progress 49 cargo vessel docked with the International Space Station (ISS) nearly six hours later, according to Mission Control.
Progress 49 docked automatically to the station´s Zvezda service module at 9:33 a.m. on Halloween, carrying nearly 3 tons of supplies to Expedition 33 crew members. Supplies included water, food, fuel, technical equipment, as well as gifts for the astronauts. It was not clear if any of the gifts included candy to celebrate Halloween.
The P49 supply mission follows SpaceX´s recent Dragon mission that successfully splashed down in the Pacific on October 28. The Dragon capsule delivered supplies to the ISS on its inaugural supply mission, the first of 12 contracted flights SpaceX has with NASA, reportedly worth $1.6 billion. SpaceX´s next mission is scheduled for January 2013.
P49´s docking utilized the abbreviated launch-to-rendezvous schedule, which was first used during Russia´s Progress 48 mission on August 1, 2012. The schedule is designed to reduce the typical two-day flight between launch and docking. Russian space officials are also evaluating this new approach for future manned Soyuz flights.
Flight engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Yuri Malenchenko monitored P49´s rendezvous and docking procedure using the Russian telerobotically operated rendezvous system (TORU). Progress is designed to dock automatically via the Kurs automated rendezvous system, but the crew can use TORU to take over if technical issues arise.
The crew will conduct leak checks at the docking interface today (Nov. 1) and open the hatch to the supply vessel and begin the unloading procedure. Once the ship is emptied, it will be filled with trash and unneeded supplies and sent back to Earth in April 2013 for disposal.
In related Space Station news: Mission Control executed a debris avoidance maneuver late Wednesday* to ensure the ISS would not collide with a piece of space debris from the Iridium 33 satellite. The burn used Progress 48 thrusters to adjust the station´s orbit to avoid the debris.
Also, Commander Suni Williams and Flight Engineer Aki Hoshide are preparing for a 6.5-hour spacewalk, set to begin at 8:15 a.m. this morning. Williams and Hoshide will venture out to the port side of the station´s truss to repair an ammonia leak in one of the station´s radiators. Since the source of the leak is unknown, the spacewalkers will install jumpers to bypass the radiator with a spare one already located on the truss.
NASA TV will have coverage of the event beginning at 7:15 a.m.
The space station currently has a full house with Williams at the helm. Along with Hoshide and Malenchenko, Williams welcomed the arrival of Flight Engineers Kevin Ford, Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin on October 25, 2012. Ford will become Commander of Expedition 34 when Williams and her crew depart the ISS on November 12.
*Correction: This story original said the debris avoidance maneuver was done on Tuesday, while it was actually done later Wednesday. The story has been updated with the correction.