Thursday, June 23, 2011

Russian Progress cargo craft docks to space station

Progress craft sails to a docking with space station. (NASA)

A Russian cargo craft loaded with equipment and supplies successfully docked to the International Space Station today.

The 24-foot long spacecraft spent two days traveling up to the orbiting outpost with fresh supplies for the crew of six living and working aboard.

Live video sent down by the supply craft's docking camera showed a nearly 910,000 pound space station alone in earth orbit draped with the blackness of space.

As the cargo craft passed the 3,280 foot distance point, Progress slowed down to a .5 m.p.h. closing rate and then down to .15 m.p.h. rate as the distance closed.

The craft then held a brief station-keeping position 540 feet from it's planned docking port on the Zvezda module, so that Russian ground controllers could ensure a safe docking.

Progress M-11M automatically docked to the Russian Zvezda module at 12:37 p.m. EDT (20:37 Moscow time) as the two crafts soared 235 miles above Kazakhstan.

"Once again, congratulations on the automatic docking," the Russian flight control team radioed the cosmonauts ten minutes later.

The station's Expedition 28 crew includes Russian cosmonaut and commander Andrey Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyaev, Sergei Volkov, NASA astronauts Ron Garan and Mike Fossum, and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa.

A mass of 5893 pounds, including water, oxygen, propellant, medical supplies, hardware, video and photography equipment and personal crew items arrived following the relatively smooth docking.

Brief communication issues with the spacecraft, including loss of video and target information caused the station's crew to pay closer attention to Progress' approach.

As the craft neared it's arrival, Russian mission control had no data on the retraction of communications antenna on Progress.

Cosmonauts are scheduled to open the hatches leading into the Progress at 3:30 p.m., following a brief meal and leak checks between the docking port's seals.

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