Atrash-filled Russian cargo ship destined for destruction cast off from theInternational Space Station (ISS) late Tuesday to help prime the orbitallaboratory for the arrival of a new crew next month.
Theunmanned Progress25 supply ship undocked from the aft end of the space station's Russian-builtZvezda service module at 8:37 p.m. EDT? (0037 Sept. 19 GMT).
Russian flightcontrollers plan to put the disposable space freighter through a week-longseries of propulsion maneuvers before commanding Progress 25 to plunge intoEarth's atmosphere and burn up during reentry.
"It's forengineering testing and to gather data about the propulsion system," NASAspokesperson Kylie Clem told SPACE.com of Progress 25's extra week inspace.
The cargoship's Tuesday departure clears a berth for a Soyuz spacecraft swap as thespace station's Expedition 15 astronauts prepare for the arrival of theirrelief crew next month.
Expedition15 commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineers Oleg Kotov and ClaytonAnderson will move their Russian-built Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft from itsEarth-facing berth on the station's Zarya control module to Progress 25'sformer port.
That move,scheduled for Sept. 27, will clear a space for the incoming Expedition16 commander Peggy Whitson, flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko and Malaysianastronaut Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor. The Expedition16 crew and Shukor are due to launch toward the ISS on Oct. 10 and dock twodays later.
Shukor,Malaysia's first astronaut, will return to Earth with Yurchikhin and Kotovwhile Anderson stays aboard the ISS to join the Expedition 16 crew.
Meanwhile,space station flight controllers decided Tuesday that the ISS would not have tohave to fire its engines to distance itself from an old Strela rocket componentdrifting in Earth orbit. On Monday, mission managers were concerned that thespent rocket stage could pose a debris risk for the ISS. But after further analysis,the space junk's trajectory was found to steer it well clear of the station,NASA said.
Progress25 arrivedat the space station in May to deliver more than 2.5 tons of fresh suppliesto the Expedition 15 crew. Its Tuesday departure left two Russian spacecraft -the Soyuz TMA-10 and a newer Progress 26 cargo ship - still docked at the spacestation.
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