Russian freighter to swap one-day parking spaces again at space station


An unmanned Russian freighter will begin swapping parking spots at the International Space Station tonight (October 20) in a move that will take just over a day to reach its new berth.

The Progress 78 spacecraft is scheduled to undock from the Russian Poisk module at the station at 19:42 EDT (2342 GMT). There will be no coverage of the undocking on NASA TV, but you can watch it relocate to its new port on the International Space Station on Thursday.

After undocking this evening, the Progress spacecraft will “park” (NASA speaks to maintain its position) at a point approximately 120 miles (193 km) from the space station to over ‘one day – 28 hours, 41 minutes to be exact – before re-docking at the stations’ new Russian-built Nauka lab module on Friday at 12:23 a.m. EDT (04:23 GMT). NASA will cover the rendezvous and re-docking from 11:30 p.m. EDT Thursday (03:30 GMT Friday). All these times are subject to change.

Related: How Russian Progress Freighters Work (Infographic)

It’s unusual for a spacecraft to stay in position for so long near the space station, but NASA said the wait time would help with the re-docking procedure.

“The 24 hours for undocking / re-docking must allow Russian flight controllers to configure systems on Nauka to receive Progress,” NASA spokeswoman Leah Cheshier told by email. . “The vehicle is backing up to a safe distance from the station while the work is in progress.”

Additionally, Progress 78 will be able to check the Nauka module’s thruster lines for leaks before the module fires its thrusters to perform an “orientation check” of the station, according to NASA officials. noted in a press release on the maneuver.

At the end of July, the Nauka module accidentally tilted the space station of about 540 degrees shortly after its own docking due to a software glitch. NASA said the crew was not in danger at the time. (Yet another Russian spacecraft, a Soyuz MS-18 crew capsule that brought a film crew back to Earth last week, briefly flipped the ISS out of orientation October 15. NASA and Roscosmos are investigating the root cause.)

The Progress 78 spacecraft will dock without the assistance of the station’s current Expedition 66 crew, but Russian cosmonauts are standing by in case they need to help with the re-docking, NASA said. in a press release. blog post on the operation of the station.

“The station’s two cosmonauts, flight engineers Piotr Dubrovnik and Anton Shkaplerov, are getting ready,” the blog said. “The duo trained on the Zvezda service module’s tele-robotic rendezvous unit for the unlikely event where they would have to manually reconnect the 78P.”

Progress 78 was launched to the space station in late June and arrived at the orbiting lab on July 1, when it docked at the Poisk module after a two-day trip. Its port change comes just a week before another Russian cargo spacecraft, Progress 79, leaves Earth for the space station. The launch is expected to leave the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan no earlier than 8 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, October 27 (00:00 GMT or 5:00 a.m. local time on Thursday, October 28). NASA will begin coverage approximately 15 minutes before launch.

Progress 79 will transport three tonnes of food, fuel and supplies to the space station for a scheduled docking at the Zvezda Service Module aft port at 9:34 p.m. EDT on Friday, October 29 (0134 GMT Saturday, October 30). NASA plans its live coverage at 8:45 p.m. EDT Friday (0045 GMT Saturday).

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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