July 25, 2012
Credit: Credit: NASA
HOUSTON — Russia’s Mission Control is looking to a potential second attempt to complete a docking test of the unpiloted Progress 47 cargo craft on July 28-29, following an aborted bid to redock with the International Space Station late July 23.
The timing, however, depended on the outcome of a Russian inquiry into the abort, which is tied to the new KURS-NA rendezvous system aboard the Progress. The abort was triggered during KURS-NA activation, when the Progress was well behind the six-person station and about 95 min. from an anticipated 9:58 p.m. EDT redocking at the Russian-segment Pirs module.
The trash-laden freighter departed the station July 22 for what was to be an overnight test of the upgraded rendezvous system that Russia expects to use aboard future Soyuz crew transports as well as Progress capsules. The new system features fewer antennas than the older KURS system, lower power requirements and less mass.
The Progress passed 2 mi. below the orbiting science lab following the abort. Two orbits later, Russian experts reactivated the KURS-NA system for troubleshooting and the results were under analysis on July 24, NASA spokesman Josh Byerly said.
The outcome of the analysis will be reviewed by the NASA-led International Space Station mission management team before a second Progress docking attempt is scheduled, according to Byerly.
A weekend attempt to redock would permit Japan’s HTV-3 cargo spacecraft to rendezvous and berth with the station’s U.S. segment as scheduled early July 27. The HTV-3 was launched on July 20 with 4.6 metric tons of food, clothing and research gear. Station astronauts Joe Acaba and Akihiko Hoshide are trained to track and grapple the HTV-3 with the station’s Canadarm2 as the craft moves within range of the 58-ft.-long robot arm.
Russia also could opt to waive off further attempts to redock the errant Progress, which carried out an initial station docking on April 22. Nearly 3 tons of fuel, food and other supplies were offloaded before it departed, and the capsule could be commanded to make a destructive descent into the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Progress 47’s difficulties are not expected to affect Russia’s plans to launch the Progress 48 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Aug. 1.
Russia currently plans a first-ever, four-orbit, 6-hr. launch-to-docking profile for Progress 48, a demonstration of an abbreviated timeline that also could be adapted to Soyuz missions to improve crew comfort. The standard Soyuz flight is flown over 34 orbits and two days.