Sunday, July 3, 2016

Progress 62 Completes Redock Test then Leaves the ISS forever.

Progress 62 as photographed by Tim Peake before he returned to Earth.
Russian engineers are continuing efforts to improve the remote piloting of the Russian-designed spacecraft. Progress spacecraft, though similar to Soyuz manned spacecraft in most aspects, are designed to be remote-controlled by computer and by ground controller input. Occasionally, however, there may come a surprise when the Kurz digital navigation system fails. And that's when the engineers want the ISS Russian cosmonauts to step in and "manually" control the craft. "Manual" control actually means radio control from the station, as there are no cosmonauts in the robotic cargo deliver Progress vehicles.
View of Progress 62 from the Pirs Module.
On Friday July 1st, a test was done to the Progress vehicle to see if new upgrades to the manual docking system were working properly. The spacecraft had already been filled with waste and garbage from the ISS, and was ready for this weekend's disposal trip to Earth. Cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin used the remote workstation in the Russian Zvesda Module to control the ship. It correctly undocked from the Pirs module, then moved to a position about 600 feet from the ISS. After a half hour of monitoring and testing, they brought the craft back to redock with station.  According to a report from NASA though, there were unusual movements of the spaceship during the redocking procedure. Engineers will be studying the downfeed to assess what may have caused it.
Progress 62 (also designated MS-01) floating above the Earth.
Progress 62 is also the first MS supply ship. The MS series is an upgrade of the progress design, allowing for small satellites to be launched from a new compartment and sporting new navigation and computer guidance features. With the test complete, its mission was accomplished and on Saturday the craft left the ISS for the last time. After backing away from the station to avoid thruster particle contamination, ground controllers guided the craft into a fiery deorbit over the Pacific Ocean where it burned up.

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