December 9, 2022

Russian cargo ship docks at space station

Russia’s Progress MS-21 supply ship approaches the International Space Station for docking Thursday night. Credit: NASA TV / Spaceflight Now

Russia’s Progress MS-21 resupply spacecraft completed an automated docking with the International Space Station at 10:49 p.m. EDT Thursday (0251 GMT Friday) to deliver more than 2.7 tons of cargo to the lab’s seven-person crew.

The unpiloted cargo freighter launched Tuesday on top of a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, beginning a two-day pursuit of the space station. The Soyuz-2.1a rocket placed the Progress MS-21 supply ship into orbit about nine minutes after liftoff.

The Russian spacecraft extended solar panels and navigation antennas, then commenced a series of orbit-raising rocket firings with on-board thrusters to approach the station for docking Thursday night. The cargo delivery marks the 82nd launch of a Progress supply ship toward the space station. Three of the 82 Progress missions have failed to reach the space station.

Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, said the Progress MS-21 cargo ship carries 1,548 pounds (702 kilograms) of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants to replenish tanks on the space station’s Zvezda service module. The mission also delivered 926 pounds (420 kilograms) of fresh water, 90 pounds (41 kilograms) of nitrogen gas, and 2,992 pounds (1,357 kilograms) of dry cargo.

The dry cargo includes food and clothing for the space station crew members, personal protective equipment, and medical, sanitary, and hygienic supplies, according to Roscosmos. The Progress MS-21 spacecraft is also packed with scientific equipment and spools of filament for a 3D printing experiment on the space station.

The Russian supply ship will also reboost the orbital altitude of the station, and perform any required burns to steer the complex out of the path of space junk.

Russian cosmonauts on the station will open hatches to begin unpacking cargo from the pressurized cabin of the newly arrived Progress spacecraft.

Russia’s Progress MS-19 spacecraft, which delivered supplies and fuel to the station in February, undocked from the lab’s Poisk module Oct. 23 and fired thrusters for a final disposal burn to fall back into the atmosphere. Loaded with trash and other unnecessary equipment, the Progress MS-19 spacecraft largely burned up during re-entry, spreading bits of debris over a remote part of the Pacific Ocean.

The departure of the Progress MS-19 spacecraft cleared the way for the arrival Thursday of the new Progress supply ship to the Poisk module, located on the space-facing side of the station.

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