Fragments of Russia’s Progress M-18M space freighter sunk safely in the Pacific Ocean after re-entering the atmosphere on Friday, a spokesman for the Russian mission control center said.
The spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) shortly after midnight Moscow time and started its final journey towards a remote location in the Pacific Ocean known as the “spacecraft cemetery.”
“At 4:42 Moscow time [00:42 a.m. GMT], fragments of the space freighter fell in the Pacific Ocean approximately 4,000 km from New Zealand’s capital Wellington,” the mission control spokesman said.
The launch of the next Russian cargo spacecraft to the ISS, Progress M-20M, is scheduled to take place at 00:45 Moscow time on Sunday (8:45 p.m. GMT on Saturday) from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan.
Russian Progress cargo spacecraft blasted off to ISS from Baikonur spaceport
Russia’s Progress cargo spacecraft has been launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Sunday to the International Space Station (ISS).
“Exactly at the scheduled time, at 00:45 MSK, the Soyuz-U carrier rocket with the Progress M-20M cargo spacecraft, which carries to the orbiting outpost more than 2.5 tonnes of cargo, was launched from the 31th launch site,” the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) told Itar-Tass.
The Progress M-20M ship is to dock to the accessory bay of the Pirs service in just 6 hours after the launch - at 06:27 MSK. Earlier, the flights of Progress cargo ships with cargoes to the ISS took a day.
“We have two technologies of docking control - in 6 and in 25 hours,” a Mission Control Centre (MCC) expert explained. According to him, experts have for “several years been engaged in the development of a new scheme, were testing it on Earth and discussing with cosmonauts.” If some minor errors occur during the docking, the Russian cosmonauts will try to “pull” the ship to the ISS using the remote piloting mode. If they fail, the spacecraft will have a two-day scheme flight, the expert said.
The 6-hour flight technology was first successfully tested last August with the Progress M-16M cargo ship, which this February was sunk in the Pacific Ocean.
The Progress M-20M cargo spacecraft carries more than 2.5 tonnes of cargo for the operation of the station and the crew, including fuel and equipment for the station, oxygen, water, clothing and food for the astronauts. The cargo spacecraft will also deliver to the ISS parcels and gifts for the crew from their families.
In addition to the standard rations the cosmonauts will receive from Earth a portion of fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as candies and other sweets from psychologists and their family members.
The ISS orbiting crew currently comprises three Russians - Pavel Vinogradov, Alexander Misurkin and Fyodor Yurchikhin, NASA astronauts Christopher Cassidy, Karen Nyberg and astronaut of the European Space Agency (ESA) Luca Parmitano.
Progress cargo ship successfully docks to ISS
Russia’s Progress cargo spacecraft has successfully docked to the International Space Station (ISS). “Progress M-20M docked to the Pirs docking module at 06:26 MSK,” the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) told Itar-Tass.
In ISS operation history it is the fourth successful docking with the use of a 6-hour flight scheme. The first launch with the use of this scheme (in which the ship makes only 4 orbital revolutions) was tested last August with the Progress M-16M ship, which was sunk in the Pacific Ocean this February.
According to a representative of the Mission Control Centre (MCC), experts “for several years were engaged in the development of the new scheme, tested it on Earth, and discussed it with cosmonauts.”
The Progress M-20M spacecraft has delivered to the ISS more than 2.5 tonnes of various cargoes, including food, water, air and oxygen tanks, sanitary and hygiene facilities, fuel, equipment for the space station modules. In addition, the crew of the ISS comprising Russians Pavel Vinogradov, Alexander Misurkin and Fyodor Yurchikhin, NASA astronauts Christopher Cassidy, Karen Nyberg and astronaut of the European Space Agency (ESA) Luca Parmitano have received parcels from their families and from psychologists. A present for Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, who turns 60 on August 31 years old and who will become the oldest flying astronaut in history, has also been delivered by the cargo spacecraft.
In addition to standard rations, nutritionists sent to the ISS on the Progress ship fresh fruits and vegetables. All the fruits are packed in special containers, which will keep them fresh for several months. In addition, the astronauts have received products on individual orders: meat dishes, seafood, fruit drinks.
In the parcels from psychologies and their families the astronauts will also find chocolates, dried fruits, nuts and other delicacies.
NASA rushes spacesuit repair kit to space station
A spacesuit repair kit has been delivered to the International Space Station, filled with tools and spare parts to hopefully fix astronaut Luca Parmitano's leaky helmet.
Parmitano and fellow astronaut Christopher Cassidy were on a spacewalk on 16 July making repairs outside the station when their task had to be aborted: Parmitano had reported that he felt water on the back of his head. His helmet rapidly filled with liquid, which floated into his eyes, nose and mouth. Cassidy helped him re-enter the ISS and crews quickly removed his helmet and gloves. They later reported that about a litre of water had leaked into the spacesuit.
NASA is still investigating the cause of the leak, although they have narrowed it down to a few possible systems inside the suit. In the meantime, mission managers decided to send up a selection of repair tools on the next available ISS resupply mission, an uncrewed Russian Progress spacecraft that launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 27 July.
House in space
"It was a small amount of repair equipment and tools that were sent up that, together, could be used for any of the possible options that could have caused the leak," says NASA spokesperson Josh Byerly at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. "They launched three tools and a small set of spare parts for the candidate culprits, such as the sublimator, the gas trap, the condensate water valve and the water separator."
These are all parts of the portable life-support system that is mounted to the back of NASA spacesuits used during spacewalks. This system controls levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air the astronaut is breathing, and it removes excess water vapour to control humidity, condensing the vapour into a cool liquid for disposal or recycling.
Although you might expect the space station to be readily stocked with tools to fix broken suits, even astronauts cannot be prepared for every scenario. "It's just like when you are working on your house. Sometimes you have to make a trip to the hardware store," says Byerly. "It just so happens that the store is here on the ground and the house is in space."