Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Russian Progress craft approaches I.S.S. for morning docking

An automated Russian Progress cargo carrier is approaching the International Space Station for an anticipated docking at 7:40 a.m.  EDT. A successful docking would clear the way for a launch later this month of the next station crew.
The previous Progress mission which launched on Aug. 24 resulted in the loss of the spacecraft when the third stage engine failed. That event raised caution among space officials about the reliability of the Soyuz manned spacecraft which utilizes a similar motor. Soyuz is presently the only means of transporting astronauts to the I.S.S. following the retirement of the space shuttle fleet.

NASA now pays the Russians $350 million per year following the retirement of the space shuttle fleet. The Progress mission launched on Sunday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. NASA will cover the docking live on NASA TV.

Florida Today reported: The Progress launch Sunday was the first since an Aug. 24 Soyuz rocket failure that effected plans for the next crew rotation at the station. The Soyuz U failure was blamed on a third-stage engine failure. That rocket and the Soyuz FG used to launch station crews have identical third-stage engines.

A successful docking Wednesday would completely clear the way for the planned Nov. 13 launch of a new station crew that includes U.S. astronaut Dan Burbank and two Russian cosmonauts: Anatoly Ivinishin and Anton Shkaplerov. The three-man crew is due to arrive at the station on Nov. 16.

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