Spaceflight Now

Cosmonaut takes control of resupply ship's docking

Posted: May 1, 2010

Bookmark and Share

The International Space Station's Russian commander took manual control of an approaching cargo ship Saturday, overriding the freighter's autopilot after it experienced an apparent problem getting oriented toward the outpost.

Expedition 23 commander Oleg Kotov was instructed by Russian flight controllers at 2:12 p.m. EDT to activate the TORU system, which uses video screens and joysticks to remotely fly the Progress M-05M spacecraft from inside the space station. The vessel was unable to get situated in the proper attitude after completing one of the propulsion maneuvers when nearing the station, NASA reported.

Despite the change in plans, the Progress was successfully brought in and docked to the station's Pirs compartment at 2:30 p.m. EDT to deliver two-and-a-half tons of supplies and equipment.

"Congratulations. You did a very good job," Mission Control-Moscow radioed Kotov.

The link up occurred while the station and Progress flew 220 miles over southern Russia. Hooks and latches were engaged a few minutes later to firmly secure the 24-foot-long craft to the station.

The Expedition 23 crew of Kotov, NASA astronauts T.J. Creamer and Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko, and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi planned to open hatches and enter the Progress in about three hours.

The cargo includes 3,031 pounds of equipment, food, clothing, life support system gear, 1,918 pounds of propellant to replenish reservoirs that feed the Russian maneuvering thrusters, 220 pounds of water and some 110 pounds of oxygen and air for the station's atmosphere.

The Progress was launched Wednesday atop a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome, reaching a preliminary orbit of 155 by 120 miles. A series of precise engine firings over the past three days guided the freighter to the rendezvous.

After arriving in range of the space station and then recognizing the problem with the KURS autopilot, Kotov assumed control to perform the flyaround maneuver that got Progress lined up with the docking port and then executed a roll maneuver to properly position its forward docking probe with Pirs.

"Go for docking," Mission Control radioed. "Nice and easy."

Kotov drove the craft to a smooth and slightly ahead-of-schedule docking, flying the final 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) of the rendezvous to set a new record, according to Mission Control-Moscow.

The 44-year-old cosmonaut, a colonel in the Russian air force and a specialist in space medicine, is in the midst of his second tour-of-duty aboard the station. He served aboard the Expedition 15 mission in 2007.

It is the 37th Progress to dock with the station over its decade-long life and the second of six scheduled this year.

The craft joins the previous resupply ship that arrived in February and remains affixed to the outpost's Zvezda module, plus two Soyuz crew transport capsules currently residing at the Zarya and Poisk ports.