New Russian Cargo Ship Docks at Space Station
The ISS Progress 32 cargo craft (center) docked to the International Space Station on Feb. 13, 2009.
CREDIT: NASA TV
An unmanned Russian space freighter docked at the International Space Station early Friday with a fresh delivery of chocolate and coffee for the orbital outpost?s three-astronaut crew.
The automated cargo ship Progress 32 docked smoothly at a berth on the station?s Earth-facing Pirs docking compartment at 2:18 a.m. EST (0789 GMT) as both spacecraft flew 215 miles (346 km) above southwestern China near the border of Mongolia.
?Today?s a special day,? space station commander Michael Fincke, of NASA, called down to Mission Control after Progress 32?s arrival. ?Thank you.?
The docking occurred nearly three days after two satellites - one American, the other Russian - accidentally slammed into each other 490 miles (790 km) above Siberia in an unprecedented collision. NASA and the U.S. Space Surveillance Network are tracking two large debris clouds from the impact, but currently believe they represent only a slight increase in risk to the space station.
To make sure Friday?s docking went as planned, Russian cosmonaut and flight engineer Yury Lonchakov watched over the cargo ship?s arrival from a terminal inside the space station, where he floated at the ready to take remote control of the unmanned spacecraft should it veer off course. Lonchakov had to manually guide in the last cargo ship that arrived at the station, Progress 31, during its Nov. 30 docking.
But Friday?s rendezvous appeared to be flawless, with the two spacecraft linking up without the need for human intervention.
?Thank you for the spacecraft and thank you for Progress,? Fincke radioed down to the station?s Mission Control Center in Russia.
Progress 32 launched into space on Tuesday to deliver more than 2 1/2 tons of fresh supplies for the space station crew. The astronauts were eagerly awaiting the spacecraft?s arrival, since it was carrying a new batch of chocolate, instant coffee and other special requests in addition to its normal shipment.
?We usually like to get fresh fruit, onions and garlic,? station flight engineer Sandra Magnus of NASA told SPACE.com last week. ?It?s like Christmas all over again when you get a vehicle docking to the space station because they always have special treats for us.?
Also packed aboard Progress 32 are more than 1,910 pounds (866 kg) of propellant for the space station's engines, 110 pounds (50 kg) of oxygen and air and 2,866 pounds (1,298 kg) of dry cargo, which includes food, clothing, experiment hardware and a brand new Russian-built Orlan spacesuit, NASA officials said.
Fincke and his crewmates are expected to open the hatches between the station and Progress 32 later today at about 5:15 a.m. EST (1015 GMT).
With Friday?s docking of Progress 32 complete, the space station astronauts can turn their full attention to preparations for the planned arrival of NASA?s space shuttle Discovery this month.
Discovery is currently slated to launch toward the International Space Station no earlier than Feb. 22 and dock two days later, though an official launch date for the mission remains unsettled due to ongoing fuel control valve concerns. Top NASA officials plan to review the valve test data later today and meet on Feb. 18 to revisit plans for the Feb. 22 launch target.
Commanded by veteran shuttle flyer Lee Archambault, Discovery?s seven-astronaut crew is gearing up for a two-week mission to deliver the final set of U.S. solar arrays to the International Space Station. The shuttle is also bringing up Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who will replace Magnus aboard the station as a member of the outpost?s Expedition 18 crew.
Magnus has lived aboard the space station since last November and is due to return to Earth aboard Discovery.
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