A cargo ship docked at the International Space Station (ISS) fired its engine Wednesday, raising the space research platform into a higher orbit to prepare for the arrival of two spacecraft in upcoming months.
The unmanned Progress 17 spacecraft, a supply ship that docked at the ISS on March 2, fired its engines at 10:27 a.m. EDT (1427 GMT) to boost the space station 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) further from Earth into an orbit that reaches 226 miles (363 kilometers) at its highest point, NASA officials said.
The orbital boost prepared the ISS for the June docking of Progress 18, the next Russian cargo ship to deliver space station equipment and supplies, as well as the expected July arrival of the space shuttle Discovery and its STS-114 crew.
Scheduled to launch no earlier than July 13, the STS-114 mission is set to be NASA's first space shuttle to launch since the 2003 Columbia disaster, which killed seven astronauts and destroyed their spacecraft during reentry on Feb. 1, 2003. The 12-day flight, commanded by NASA veteran Eileen Collins, will dock with the ISS and deliver the Raffaello cargo module, which has already been packed with 2,600 pounds (1,170 kilograms) of tools, food, science equipment and other supplies. The spaceflight will also clear out much of the trash and unneeded equipment currently accumulating aboard the ISS.
During the reboost maneuver, ISS Expedition 11 flight engineer John Phillips positioned video cameras to observe the station's solar panel arrays and other external components to monitor if they bend and flex in response to the motion. Phillips and Expedition 11 commander Sergei Krikalev have lived aboard the ISS since their arrival on April 17. They are currently serving a six-month mission aboard the station, which they hope will see the arrival of both the Discovery shuttle and its follow-up flight STS-121 aboard the Atlantis orbiter. ISS officials also plan to launch European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter to join the ISS crew during the STS-121 mission.
- Complete Coverage: ISS Expedition 11