Russia’s much traveled Progress 47 cargo capsule has departed the International Space Station for good, freeing the Russian segment Pirs docking port for the arrival of the Progress 48 later this week, following a first time, four orbit launch to docking transit.
Progress 47, which arrived at the six man orbiting lab initially on April 22, undocked for the final time on Monday at 5:19 p.m., EDT, filled with trash and headed for several weeks of orbital engineering tests and a destructive re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
The freighter, also designated M-15M, departed the station for the first time on July 22 for what was to be an overnight flight test of the new KURS-NA automated rendezvous system. However, the return was postponed after the upgraded avionics failed an activation self test.
After Russian troubleshooting and a warm up of the avionics, the Progress 47 re-docked late Saturday without difficulty, completing a successful test of the KURS-NA. The upgraded rendezvous system is projected to become a fixture aboard future Soyuz crew transport and Progress re-supply craft, possibly by 2014.
Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka removed and stowed the KURS-NA aboard the ISS to await a future trip back to Earth and some further engineering review.
On Monday, the NASA-led ISS mission management team approved plans for the one day Progress 48 mission. The lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is set for Wednesday at 3:35 p.m., EDT. The four orbit transit would lead to an automated docking of the new resupply ship with the space station at 9:24 p.m., EDT.
The normal 34 orbit, two plus day launch to docking timeline remains a Russian option for the Progress 48. If exercized, the latest supply ship would reach the orbiting science lab on Friday at 6:15 p.m., EDT.