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At ISS, Russian Spacecraft Successfully Fires Engines in Test

A Russian spacecraftattached to the International Space Station (ISS) successfully fired itsengines Wednesday during a brief test to check its systems, NASA officialssaid.

The unmannedProgress19 cargo ship fired its engines at 4:12 p.m. EDT (2012 GMT), boosting theISS about 1,312 feet (400 meters) higher above Earth, NASA spokesperson KylieClem, of the agency's Johnson Space Center (JSC), told SPACE.com.

While theengine burn lasted just under two minutes - about 114 seconds to be precise -Russian engineers were eager to test the spacecraft's thrusters after it failedto boost the ISS into a higher orbit last week.

"Theytested one side of thrusters and they'll look at when to test the other side,"Clem said, adding that Russian engineers are looking over the data from today'sburn.

The failedProgress burn, conducted on Oct. 18 EDT, unexpectedly stopped short about twominutes into the first of two, nearly 12-minute maneuvers designed to raise theISS to an altitude of about 224 statute miles (360 kilometers). Russianengineers believe a communications glitch between the spacecraft's thrustersand navigation computer - which is designed to shut down Progress engines whendata drops out - may have caused the aborted burn, which left the ISS in orbitjust shy of 212 statute miles above Earth (341 kilometers), NASA officialssaid.

Russianflight controllers planned to conduct two Progress engine maneuvers before anew cargo ship - Progress 20 -docks at the aft end of the space stations Zvezdaservice module in December, NASA officials said.

Progress 20is slated to launch toward the ISS on Dec. 21 and take two days to reach theorbital laboratory, where Expedition 12commander Bill McArthur and flight engineer Valery Tokarev are currentlyworking through their first of six months in Earth orbit.

Earlierthis week, Russian flight controllers said they could perform additionalProgress engine burns on Nov. 9 and Nov. 16 - or even later - due to the longlead time before Progress 20 is slated to launch, Russia's Interfax NewsAgency reported.

Meanwhile,McArthur and Tokarev are gearing up for the first of at least two spacewalksscheduled for their spaceflight. The two astronauts are expected to don U.S.spacesuits and work outside the ISS on Nov. 7 and have spent most of this weekgoing over their tools and procedures to conduct the spacewalk, NASA officialssaid.

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Tariq Malik
Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.