Thursday, January 21, 2010

Soyuz settles at new station docking port

Cosmonaut Max Suraev and astronaut Jeff Williams have docked safely at a new International Space Station port after a short, 21-minute trip to relocate the spacecraft.

"We have contact," a voice said through a Russian translator, as the station flew above Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz TMA-16 is now connected to the "Poisk" port, which flew to the station in November. Final preparations for it to receive the spacecraft were made during a spacewalk last Thursday by Suraev and fellow cosmonaut Oleg Kotov.

The maneuver opened the port at the aft end of the Zvezda Service Module for an unmanned Progress cargo ship due to arrive Feb. 5. With its arrival, four Russian spacecraft -- two Soyuz, two Progress -- will be parked at the station.

Suraev, the Soyuz commander, and Williams, the flight engineer, backed away from the station at 5:03 a.m. to a distance of about 30 meters.

Suraev guided the spacecraft in a 90-degree arc to the Service Module's space-facing port before making a slow final approach at a rate of about 0.1 meters per second.

It will be about more than an hour before leak checks are completed and the pair can open hatches and re-enter the outpost.

Williams and Suraev flew to the station together in October and are scheduled to return to Earth on March 16. Williams is now the commander of Expedition 22.

The other expedition crew members currently are Kotov, American astronaut T.J. Creamer and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

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