Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Progress re-docking suffers a glitch

Progress M-15M seen during docking.

On July 22, ground controllers in Russia remotely undocked the Progress M-15m (US designation 47P) cargo spacecraft from the ISS Pirs Module. The idea was to test a new "Kurs" automated rendezvous and docking system. However, something went wrong. It may have something to do with the new antennae used in the system. In any case, the re-docking effort was postponed while new procedures are considered. Another reason for the delay is that the ISS is expecting a visitor, the HTV-3 cargo spacecraft recently launched by Japan, which is expected to dock with the station on Friday. Completing that maneuver, the flight engineers will attempt again to re-dock the Progress spacecraft. 

Progress M-15M has been docked with the ISS for three months now, and having delivered its supplies, it is now used as a giant and expensive trash container. When its usefulness has expired, it will be undocked and re-entered to burn up in the atmosphere.

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