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Space station welcomes Russian cargo ship arrival

Posted: November 2, 2011

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The International Space Station received a cargo freighter today when the Russian-made vessel loaded with three tons of supplies safely approached and docked on autopilot.

File photo of Progress spacecraft reaching the station. Credit: NASA
The Progress M-13M spacecraft linked up to the station's Pirs module at 7:41 a.m. EDT (1141 GMT) while orbiting 247 miles above northern China.

"On the 11th anniversary of the arrival of the first residents of the International Space Station, supplies have arrived to fortify the station for the Expedition 29 crew and beyond," NASA commentator Rob Navias called from Houston.

Hooks and latches were engaged a few minutes after docking to firmly secure the 24-foot-long craft to the station where it will remain parked through late January.

The Expedition 29 crew of commander Mike Fossum, cosmonaut Sergei Volkov and Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa plan to open hatches and enter the Progress later today.

The "dry" cargo includes 3,108 pounds of equipment, food, clothing, life support system gear, 1,653 pounds of propellant to replenish reservoirs that feed the Russian maneuvering thrusters, 926 pounds of water and some 110 pounds of oxygen and air for the station's atmosphere.

The Progress was launched Sunday atop a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome, reaching a preliminary orbit of 157 by 120 miles tilted 51.65 degrees relative to the equator. 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, the vessel began a flyaround maneuver to get lined up with the docking port and then executed a roll maneuver to properly orient its forward nose probe with Pirs.

A brief stationkeeping hold with about 620 feet between the freighter and station allowed Russian flight controllers to assess systems before giving approval to commence the 11-minute final approach.

The ship's automated docking system did its job and drove the craft to the linkup just before an orbital sunset.

"The entire approach was automated and flawless, no issues during the entire journey of the Progress to the Pirs docking compartment," Navias said.