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Supply Ship Boosts Space Station’s Orbit

ISS Crew Welcomes Fresh Russian Cargo Ship
The Russian unmanned cargo ship Progress 21 is caught by a camera mounted to the exterior of the International Space Station as it prepared to dock at the outpost on April 26, 2006. (Image credit: NASA TV/<a href="http://www.collectspace.com">collectSPACE.com</a>.)

The InternationalSpace Station (ISS) reached a higher orbit Thursday after a cargo ship firedits engines during a brief, but successful, maneuver, NASA and Russian spaceofficials said.

TheProgress 21 cargo ship docked at the aft end of the station's Zvezda modulefired its onboard engines for 6.5 minutes, boosting the orbital laboratory'sorbit by about 1.7 miles (2.8 kilometers), NASA Johnson Space Centerspokesperson James Hartsfield told SPACE.com.

NASAofficials said the orbital boost prepared the ISS for the June arrival ofProgress 22, a new cargo ship that will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome,Kazakhstan in Central Asia atop a Soyuz rocket.

Progress 22is expected to launch on June 24 and dock at the ISS two days later, Hartsfieldsaid, adding that an older cargo ship - Progress20 - will be cast off prior to the new spacecraft's arrival. Progress 20has been dockedat the Russian-built Pirs docking compartment since December 23, 2005.

Thursday'sISS orbit reboost comes after an abortedtest of the two ISS engines attached to the Zvezdamodule's aft end. Russian ISS controllers used the test to check whetherthe Zvezda engines, which were last used in July 2000, were still operational.The failed engine firing did not affect the docking of Progress 21.

Progress 21arrived at the ISS on April 26 after a two-day spaceflightfrom Baikonur Cosmodrome. The cargo ship ferried 2.5 tons of food and suppliesto ISSExpedition 13 commander PavelVinogradov and flight engineer JeffreyWilliams. The two astronauts are in the midst of a six-month mission aboardthe ISS and arrivedat the station on April 1.

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Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the Space.com team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. 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 Google+, Twitter and on Facebook.