Space Station Clears Docking Port for Arriving Spaceflyers

Space Station Clears Docking Port for Arriving Spaceflyers
The Russian-built Progress 21 cargo ship leaves the International Space Station on Sept. 18, 2006. (Image credit: NASA TV.)

CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. - An unmanned Russian cargo ship left a berth at the International SpaceStation (ISS) to destroy itself late Monday, clearing a docking port for threespaceflyers now bound for the orbital laboratory.

Filled withtrash and other unneeded equipment, the Progress 21 supply ship slipped awayfrom its aft docking port of the space station's Zvezda service module at about8:30 p.m. EDT (0030 Sept. 19 GMT) while the outpost's three-astronaut crew Expedition13 crew slumbered - an ISS first - and fired its thrusters at the behest ofRussia's Mission Control.

Progress 21and the ISS were flying more than 200 miles (321 kilometers) above Eastern Asia when thetwo spacecraft parted ways, NASA commentator Nicole Cloutier-Lemasters said.

The spacestation's Expedition 13 crew of PavelVinogradov, JeffreyWilliams and ThomasReiter were taking their well-earned night's rest as Progress departedafter a busy day highlighted by a mild toxicspill, a smoke-like odor and the station's second-ever official spacecraftemergency.

Progress 21'sorbital departure clears the station's Zvezda docking port for the Wednesdayarrival of a new SoyuzTMA-9 spacecraft carrying two new ISS astronauts and the world's firstfemale space tourist.

Aboard theSoyuz, which launchedearlier today at 12:09 a.m. EDT (0409 GMT) are ISS Expedition14 commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin, whowill relieve Vinogradov and Williams. Riding along with the Expedition 14 crewis U.S.entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari, a paying ISS visitor whose trip results froma deal with Russia's Federal Space Agency and the Virginia-based firm SpaceAdventures.

Ansari andthe Expedition 14 crew are expected to dock at the ISS at about 1:24 a.m. EDT(0524 GMT) Wednesday.

Progress 21launchedtoward the ISS laden with fresh food, supplies and equipment on April 24 and arrivedat the station two days later. Its undocking marks the second spacecraftdeparture in as many days at the ISS.

NASA's space shuttle Atlantis and itssix-astronaut STS-115 crew left the ISSat about 8:50 a.m. EDT (1250 GMT) Sunday after successfully delivering a $372million set of new trusses and solararrays to the station to resumeconstruction of the unfinished orbital laboratory.

Atlantis'STS-115 astronauts are now slated to return to Earth at 5:59 a.m. EDT (0959GMT) Wednesday, less than five hours after the Ansari and the Expedition 14expect to arrive at the ISS.

Cloutier-Lemasterssaid the expendable Progress 21 vehicle is expected to reenter the Earth'satmosphere at about 12:02 a.m. EDT on Tuesday on a course to burn up over the Pacific Ocean.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of 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's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. 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. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.