Saturday, January 29, 2011

Russian cargo ship arrives safely at station

An unmanned Russian resupply ship cruised to a smooth automated docking at the International Space Station tonight, bringing another three tons of fuel and supplies to the outpost.

Launched two days earlier from Kazakhstan, the Progress 41 spacecraft made contact with the Pirs docking compartment on the station's Russian segment at 9:39 p.m. EST, as the station flew about 220 miles above the coast of Uruguay.

Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, one of six Expedition 26 crew members living on the station, was ready to take manual control of the Progress if the automated Kurs rendezvous system malfunctioned, but everything went according to plan.

"Mechanical capture confirmed," a translator reported a cosmonaut saying.

"OK, guys, congratulations on a successful docking," a Russian mission controller said later.

"Copy, and right back at you with the congratulations," came the reply.

The spacecraft was carrying 1,918 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen, 926 pounds of water and 3,080 pounds of dry goods including spare parts and supplies.

Those supplies include a small satellite that Russian spacewalkers plan to deploy Feb. 16 and a birthday present for station commander Scott Kelly, who turns 47 on Feb. 24.

The Russian vehicle arrived a few days after Japan's cargo ship reached the station for the second time, after being grappled and berthed by the station's robotic arm.

Europe's cargo freighter is scheduled to launch Feb. 15 from French Guiana, followed by shuttle Discovery, which is targeted to blast off Feb. 24 from Kennedy Space Center.

Hatches on the newly arrived Progress were expected to be opened early Sunday after the docking compartment's hooks and latches engaged and leak checks were performed.

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