Resupply ship set for Friday rendezvous with station
BY SPACEFLIGHT NOW
Posted: February 10, 2009
A three-day orbital chase by a robotic cargo freighter to catch the international space station began high above Earth early this morning with the successful launch of the Russian-made resupply ship.
A preliminary orbit was achieved after a nine-minute ascent provided by the three-stage rocket. Onboard commands then extended the Progress craft's two power-generating solar arrays that span 35 feet and unfurled communications and navigation antennas.
A series of precise engine firings scheduled for later today and again on Thursday will guide the freighter toward its automated docking Friday at 2:19 a.m. EST (0719 GMT). It will be the 32nd such cargo craft sent to the station.
The 24-foot long ship will link up with the Earth-facing port on the Pirs docking module, a spot vacated by the previous Progress vessel that undocked last Thursday. The old vehicle, packed with trash, was commanded to deorbit over the Pacific Ocean on Sunday.
Today's launch, known in the station's assembly matrix as Progress mission 32P, will deliver two-and-a-half tons of supplies to the station. The "dry" cargo tucked aboard the Progress amounts to 2,866 pounds in the form of spare parts, life support gear and equipment hardware.
The refueling module carries 1,918 pounds of propellant for transfer into the Russian segment of the complex to feed the station's maneuvering thrusters.
And the vessel has 110 pounds of oxygen and air.
The space station is occupied by the Expedition 18 crew of commander Mike Fincke, flight engineer Yury Lonchakov and NASA astronaut Sandy Magnus. Lonchakov will be standing by Friday to manually dock the Progress if the automated system experiences a problem.
The following timeline shows the key events scheduled from launch until docking for the Progress freighter:
Day 1 events - Tuesday
Day 3 events -Thursday
Day 4 events - Friday
Data source: NASA