Progress cargo ship relocated to new module at International Space Station

The Progress MS-17 spacecraft approaches the International space Station for docking Friday. Credit: Roscosmos

A Russian Progress supply ship docked with the new Nauka lab module at the International Space Station Friday, completing a 29-hour free flight after detaching from a different port at the complex.

The relocation positions the Progress spacecraft to assist with leak checks of the Nauka module’s propulsion system, which will be used to help control the space station’s attitude, or orientation, as it loops around Earth in orbit every hour-and-a-half.

The unpiloted Progress MS-17 supply ship undocked from the space station’s Poisk module at 7:42 p.m. EDT (2342 GMT) Wednesday and backed away to a distance of 115 miles (185 kilometers) from the orbital outpost.

Once the spacecraft was the proper distance from the station, the Progress initiated a new approach to the complex using space-based navigation and a Kurs rendezvous radar system. The automated approach culminated in a docking with the Nauka module at 12:21 a.m. EDT (0421 GMT) Friday.

The docking was the first link-up of a Progress cargo freighter with the Nauka module, which arrived at the space station July 29, becoming the largest addition to the research complex in more than a decade. A Soyuz crew ship relocated to the Nauka module last month before departing Oct. 16 to head for landing, freeing up the modules docking port for the Progress MS-17 supply ship.

Nauka, which means science, had a troubled flight to the space station after launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 21. After encountering propulsion problems during the flight to the station, the Nauka module successfully docked with the Zvezda service module to wrap up the eight-day trip.

But hours after docking, thrusters on Nauka inadvertently started firing due to a software glitch. The thrusters forced the space station off its proper attitude and into a slow tumble. The station made one-and-a-half rotations before its other thrusters regained pointing control.

The Progress MS-17 spacecraft now docked to Nauka will perform leak checks of the module’s propellant lines over the next few weeks.

Russia’s new Prichal node module will take the place of the Progress MS-17 spacecraft at the Nauka docking port next month.

The Prichal module is scheduled for launch Nov. 24 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a Soyuz rocket, followed by docking to the Nauka module Nov. 26.

Once the Prichal module is in orbit on the way to the space station, the Progress MS-17 spacecraft will depart Nauka on Nov. 25, taking with it a docking adapter that launched with Nauka to temporarily accommodate Soyuz and Progress vehicles.

The Prichal module will become a standard docking location for visiting Soyuz crew ferry ships.

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