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Space station receives latest Russian resupply ship
BY JUSTIN RAY
SPACEFLIGHT NOW

Posted: February 4, 2010


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A Russian cargo freighter flying on autopilot performed a successful rendezvous and docking with the space station Thursday night, delivering two-and-a-half tons of supplies and equipment for the international outpost and its resident crew.

While flying 212 miles over the extreme southwestern Atlantic, the Progress M-04M spacecraft linked up to the aft docking port of the station's Zvezda service module at 11:26 p.m. EST.

"Docking confirmed. Contact and capture," NASA commentator Rob Navias announced from Houston's Mission Control Center. "Docking occurring almost to the second as had been planned by Russian flight controllers."

Hooks and latches were engaged a few minutes later to firmly secure the 24-foot-long craft to the station.

The Expedition 22 crew of commander Jeff Williams, fellow NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Oleg Kotov and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi plan to open hatches and enter the Progress around 3 a.m. EST Friday.

The cargo includes 2,683 pounds of equipment, food, clothing, life support system gear, 1,940 pounds of propellant to replenish reservoirs that feed the Russian maneuvering thrusters, 926 pounds of water and some 106 pounds of oxygen and air for the station's atmosphere.

The Progress was launched Tuesday atop a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome, reaching a preliminary orbit of 144 by 119 miles. A series of precise engine firings over the past few days guided the freighter to the rendezvous.

After arriving in range of the space station, the vessel began a flyaround maneuver to get lined up with the docking port and then executed a roll maneuver to properly orient its forward docking probe with Zvezda.

A brief stationkeeping hold with about 530 feet between the freighter and station allowed Russian flight controllers to assess systems before giving approval to commence the 10-minute final approach.

The ship's automated docking system did its job and drove the craft to the linkup just after an orbital sunset. A headlight on the craft's nose was turned on, providing suitable conditions for the nighttime docking.

"Progress just docked to ISS! We felt the impact!!!" Noguchi tweeted live from the space station on his Twitter account.

It is the 36th Progress to dock with the station over its decade-long life and the first of six scheduled this year.

The craft joins the previous resupply ship that arrived last October and remains affixed to the outpost, plus two Soyuz crew transport capsules currently residing at the space station. This is the first time that four Russian visiting vehicles have been attached to the complex at one time.

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