Station commander remotely docks supply ship
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: June 18, 2005
Space station commander Sergei Krikalev took over manual control of an approaching Russian supply ship this evening and remotely guided the robotic craft to a picture-perfect docking after problems prevented an automatic linkup.
The unmanned Progress supply craft, launched Thursday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, was poised for final approach when a problem on the ground prevented Russian flight controllers from sending commands to initiate the procedure.
Krikalev, one of the most experienced space fliers in the world, promptly took over manual control using a backup system known as TORU and guided the craft to a linkup at the aft end of the Zvezda command module at 8:42 p.m. EDT (0042 GMT).
"I would like to congratulate you on the successful docking," a Russian flight controller radioed the station. "I am proud of you."
"I tried to do my best. Thank you very much," Krikalev replied. "I think it was very helpful to have all the TORU training. Say thank you to my TORU instructor."
"Yes, he is here, he is getting ready for receiving a medal for this wonderful job."
The Progress is loaded with 4,662 pounds of supplies and equipment, including 397 pounds of propellant, 242 pounds of oxygen, 926 pounds of fresh water and 3,097 pounds of dry cargo. The cargo includes 40 new solid-fuel oxygen generators, or SFOGs, which can be ignited to provide additional oxygen through a chemical reaction.
The station normally relies on a Russian Elektron oxygen generator, which uses solar electricity to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is dumped overboard.
But the Elektron's main liquid unit failed recently and the crew has been burning SFOGs to provide oxygen. With the arrival of the Progress, Krikalev and flight engineer John Phillips now have a total of 82 SFOGs, enough to supply their needs for 41 days.
But oxygen from tanks aboard the Progress will be used in the near term and all together, the crew now has enough air to last until January without any additional supplies.
Last week, Krikalev removed the failed liquid unit (no. 5) from the Elektron and replaced it with a spare unit (no. 7) that experienced its own problems earlier. He transferred electrolytes from unit No. 5 to unit No. 7 and plans to install new filters carried up on the Progress. He hopes to make an attempt to re-activate the Elektron late next week.
The next Progress, scheduled for launch in late August, will carry a new liquid unit that should restore the Elektron to normal operation if it is still out of action. In the meantime, Krikalev and Phillips plan to burn two more SFOGs this weekend and to tap into the Progress oxygen supply Monday.