Sunday, July 31, 2016

ISS Now at 5 Docked Spacecraft

The situation before the latest Dragon arrived. Dragon is now docked at the Harmony module.
It has been a busy July at the International Space Station, with one ship leaving and three ships arriving. It started at the beginning of July with the undocking of Progress M-62 from the Pirs module. Also designated Progress spacecraft MS-1, it was the first Progress mission using the new MS series of cargo ships. After undocking, engineers performed computer and navigation exercises with the craft to test the new systems which are also found on Soyuz spacecraft. Progress 62 was deorbited and burnt up in re-entry the next day.
Then on July 7, Soyuz MS-01 lifted off from Baikonur with the remaining crew of Expedition 48. This Soyuz was the first of the new, and ultimate, Soyuz space capsule modifications. It docked with the ISS on July 9 at the Rassvet module. These two flights were reported earlier this month.

Soyuz MS-01 docked at the Rassvet port.
The next two flights were unmanned cargo space missions. Uniquely, this was the first time that two robotic spacecraft were in pursuit of the ISS at the same time, and actually docked within a day and a half of each other.  First came the Russians.
Cargo flight Inbound.
Progress 64 (NASA designation) is the third of the new Progress MS vehicles (Russian designation MS-03), and was launched on July 16th. It docked at the open Pirs module on July 19th, taking the "Long Route" 2-day orbital chase to give engineers more test flight time, rather than fly the now normal 6 hour flight path.
Gotcha! Dragon is captured with the robotic arm.
The latest to arrive is the Dragon, mission CRS-9. It was launched by SpaceX from Cape Canaveral at pad LC-40 on July 18th. It docked at the US-built Harmony module on July 19. Significantly, it carries some important medical experiments, and especially the new Spacedock adaptor which will enable other spacecraft with the adapter standard to dock at the same port. 
That made for 3 spacecraft dockings within 11 days, a very good achievement for the crew of Expedition 48!

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