Russian cargo ship docks at space station amid commercial crew visit
A Russian cargo ship blasted off Wednesday and delivered 2.7 tons of equipment and supplies to the International Space Station, carrying the lab’s NASA-sponsored crew and four incoming “private astronauts” to advance their science agenda.
The Progress cargo craft lifted off atop a Soyuz 2a.1 booster at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 8:56 a.m. EDT, less than 48 hours after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Promoted the privately funded Crew Dragon. A capsule in orbit from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The flight, chartered by Houston-based Axiom Space, carried retired astronaut Peggy Whitson, fiber-optics entrepreneur John Schoffner and two Saudi astronauts — Ali Al-Qarni and Raynah Barnawi — on an eight-day research trip with school children across the Middle East. Taken to the station for public access. East.
The Ax-2 flight, the company’s second NASA-sanctioned private astronaut mission, increased the space station’s crew from seven to 11. While conditions are more crowded than usual, NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen told The Associated Press that the joint crew was coping.
“We’ve integrated him well into the staff, and he’s been very busy … doing a lot of the work that he brought with him,” he said in an interview Wednesday. said during an interview. “It’s kind of crowded at times, we’ve had passageway issues (but) it’s worked out really well. Really enjoying the company.”
As they spoke, Progress continued its automatic two-orbital rendezvous, capturing the space station while cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev, the station commander, monitored the approach from inside the Russian section of the station.
He was prepared to take manual control and fly the progress to docking by remote control if needed, but the spacecraft flew flawlessly, landing itself on the lab’s space-facing POSK module at 12:19 p.m. Guided towards correct docking.
The Progress carried 2.7 tons of equipment and supplies, including 1,080 pounds of propellant, 88 pounds of nitrogen, 926 pounds of water, and 3,399 pounds of dry cargo.
After the Ax-2 crew departs and returns to Earth next Tuesday, SpaceX plans to follow up with its cargo launch on June 3, sending an unmanned Dragon capsule from the same pad as the private astronaut crew. used last Sunday.
Along with the usual crew supplies, science gear and instruments, the Dragon capsule will carry two more rollout solar array blankets that are part of an ongoing power system upgrade. They will be installed by Bowen and astronaut Woody Hoberg during spacewalks on June 9 and 15.
On June 26, the SpaceX Cargo Dragon, loaded with research samples and now-needed supplies, will undock from the Harmony Module’s space-facing port, used by the Ax-2 crew, and return to Earth.
In early July, Bowen and his Crew 6 teammates will strap into their Crew Dragon, undock the capsule from Harmony’s forward port and transfer it to the port vacated by the Cargo Dragon. This will clear the way for Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule to launch on its first pilot flight at Harmony’s forward port on July 21.
Starliner astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita Williams plan to put the shuttle through its paces before NASA certifies it is safe to carry astronauts to and from the laboratory in concert with SpaceX. Do it.
Crew 6 commanders Bowen, Hoberg, UAE astronaut Sultan Al-Niyadi and astronaut Andrey Fedyayev plan to return to Earth on Aug. 27, nine days after their Crew 7 replacement, to wrap up the 178-day mission. .
Prokopyev, cosmonaut Dmitri Petlin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio are scheduled to return home aboard the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft on Sept. 27, 12 days after taking their place — two astronauts and another NASA astronaut — at the station. Arrived at
Prokopyev, Patlin and Rubio launched to the laboratory last September and originally planned to return to Earth in March. But a coolant leak forced the Russians to launch a replacement ferry, delaying their return by six months.
Upon touchdown, they will have logged 371 days in orbit, a new American single-flight space endurance record.
“On a personal level, it was very difficult,” Rubio said of the unexpected mission extension. “Just because I was missing my family and I knew I was going to miss some big milestones, especially for my (four) kids.”
These included birthdays, an anniversary, a son’s high school graduation and a daughter’s first year of college.
“We’ve tried very hard to stay in touch with each other,” Rubio told the AP. “I’m kind of (trying) to be disciplined about being as involved in their lives as possible. My wife, my kids, they’ve been troopers, and they’ve really handled it incredibly well. Well handled.”