Atrash-laden Russian cargo ship cast off from the International Space Station(ISS) Wednesday and plunged back to Earth, making room for a new resupplyspacecraft set to launch Thursday.
Russian ISSflight controllers remotely undocked the unmanned Progress 18 spacecraft fromits berth at the aft end of the station's Zvezda service module at 6:26 a.m.EDT (1026 GMT), NASA spokesperson Kylie Clem told SPACE.com. Separationof the two spacecraft went smoothly, while ISS Expedition 11 commander Sergei Krikalevand flight engineer John Phillips observed the undocking, she added.
Theundocking makes room for Progress 19, an unmanned spacecraft set to launchThursday atop a Soyuz rocket at 9:08 a.m. EDT (1308 GMT). The space shot willbe staged from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Progress 19will deliver more than 2.6 tons of fresh oxygen, propellant and food, as wellas vital spare parts and other equipment.
Among themajor items packed aboard the spacecraft is a replacement liquid unit for thestation's Elektron oxygen generator - the primary oxygen generator for the ISS- which failedearlier this year. ISS astronauts have relied on secondary oxygen suppliesstored in Progress tanks, as well as oxygen-generating candles to maintaintheir cabin atmosphere.
Russian-builtProgress spacecraft provide steady supply shipments to ISS crews, and made theonly cargo shipments during the more than two years between the 2003 Columbiaaccident and the July 28 arrivalof NASA's space shuttle Discovery. Another Russian cargo ship, Progress 20, isslated to launch toward the ISS in December. The next shuttle delivery,Discovery's STS-121 flight, is expected no earlier than March 2006.
Progress 18arrivedat the ISS on June 18, delivering more than two tons of supplies, spare partsand other equipment for the Expedition 11 crew. Krikalev and Phillips spent thelast week packing Progress 18 with waste, trash and other unneeded items beforeclosing the spacecraft's hatch Tuesday morning.
Russianspace station officials expected much of Progress 18 to burn up during reentry,with remains to crash into the Pacific Ocean at about 10:13 a.m. EDT (1413GMT), according to Russia's Interfax News Agency. The spacecraft's remnantswere expected to splashdown about 1,864 miles (3,000 kilometers) east ofWellington, New Zealand, Interfax reported.
- Complete Coverage: ISS Expedition 11