Russia’s Damaged Progress Cargo Resupply Ship Docks With Space Station
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Despite all odds, Russia’s Progress 51 cargo spacecraft docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday at 8:25 a.m. EDT. A “hard mate” was established when docking hooks were deployed nine minutes later at 8:34 a.m.
Progress launched towards the orbiting space lab on Wednesday carrying 2.5 tons of cargo, including 1,764 pounds of propellant, 48 pounds of oxygen, 57 pounds of air, 926 pounds of water and 3,483 pounds of spare parts. However, after launch, the spacecraft’s navigation antenna failed to properly deploy, casting doubt on whether Progress would even be able to make it to the Station.
Rendezvous and docking procedures with ISS are automated, but once the spacecraft is within 492 feet of the Station, Russia’s Mission Control Center just outside of Moscow and the Station crew monitor the approach and docking closely. Progress typically uses an automated, radar-based system called Kurs to dock with the station, but the station crew can also use the TORU system, which is a backup remote control docking system in the Station’s Zvezda Service Module.
Astronauts aboard the space station had to use a “soft docking” to capture the cargo ship and see whether the undeployed antenna would interfere with “hard docking.” NASA confirmed the cargo craft completed a “hard mate” when the docking hooks were deployed this morning.
Flight Engineers Pavel Vinogradov and Roman Romanenko monitored the docking, standing by at the Russian (TORU) telerobotically operated rendezvous system in case manual control was needed to bring Progress in. Russian Mission Control said in the end, the cosmonauts did not have to provide manual docking.
After docking, Crew members then conducted leak checks at the docking interface and opened the hatch to the cargo craft. The Expedition 35 team will soon begin the long process of inventorying and unloading its 3.1 tons of food, fuel and equipment. Once ISS crew members finally unload Progress 51, they will be reloading it with trash and station discards. Once the ship is filled with discarded waste, it will make a scheduled deployment and return to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere upon reentry.
The Russian spacecraft is expected to undock from the ISS on June 11 to make way for the ESA’s “Albert Einstein” Automated Transfer Vehicle 4 on June 15.
Crew members currently aboard the space station are: Russian cosmonauts Romanenko, Vinogradov, and Alexander Misurkin; NASA astronauts Tom Mashburn and Chris Cassidy; and Canada’s Chris Hadfield, who is the ISS commander.