Thursday, February 24, 2011

European cargo craft docks with space station

Europe's Kepler approaches the space station today. (ESA)

A European cargo craft arrived at the International Space Station today following a one week journey to deliver fresh supplies and fuel.

The Automated Transfer Vehicle Johannes Kepler docked to the space station's Zvezda service module's aft section at 10:59 a.m. EST, today

Kepler is Europe's second space station resupply flight by an ATV.

As the ATV approached the space station this morning, station astronaut Paolo Nespoli of Italy monitored the craft's approach via television monitors.

Earlier, at 9:10 am EST, the automated transfer vehicle flew at a distance of 2,205 meters or 10,515 feet away from the space station.

As the spacecraft drew closer, it's heads on approach gave it the look of an X-Wing fighter from the later Star Wars episodes.

Kepler will have it's first task at the station as it fires it's thrusters to perform a reboost of the space station into an orbit 1.1 statue miles higher on Friday at 5:33 a.m. The engine's will burn for just over three minutes.

The third and final budgeted ATV is scheduled for launch in Spring 2012; and Europe is working to have a fourth ATV funded and built for a late-2013 launch.

Kepler was launched a top an Ariane 5 rocket on Feb. 16 from the northeast coastline of South America following a one day delay.

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