Problems delay docking of Russia cargo ship at space station

AP News
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Posted: Apr 28, 2015 11:06 AM

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's space agency postponed the docking of a cargo ship with the International Space Station on Tuesday because of problems with the unmanned spacecraft.

The Progress M-27M was launched Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and was scheduled to dock six hours later. But Roscosmos said Russia's Mission Control was having trouble getting data from the spacecraft and decided to postpone the docking at least until Thursday.

NASA's Mission Control later reported that a video camera on the Progress showed it to be spinning at a "rather significant rate," and the Americans informed their Russian counterparts that due to these problems Thursday would be too soon to attempt to dock for safety reasons.

Russian spacecraft, including those used to send astronauts to the International Space Station, recently have acquired the capability to take a more direct six-hour route to the orbiting outpost. But they still have the option of the longer, traditional route lasting two days.

It was unclear how long the Progress could keep orbiting the Earth while Russian flight controllers tried to stabilize the craft and restore the system that allows them to send and receive data.

Because of the loss of connection, the flight controllers were unable to confirm the deployment of the navigational antennas needed for docking, NASA and a duty officer at Russia's Mission Control said.

The Progress is carrying about 2.5 tons of cargo, including fuel, equipment, oxygen and food, to the space station, which currently has a six-person crew from Russia, the United States and Italy.

The cargo ship also is delivering a copy of the Banner of Victory, the banner raised over the Reichstag in Berlin by victorious Soviet soldiers in 1945. Russia is planning extensive celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

NASA is down to single cargo shipper, the SpaceX company. Its other supplier, Orbital Sciences Corp., is still grounded following a launch explosion last October at Virginia. So the potential loss of an entire load of supplies on this Progress, while not life-threatening in any way, would still be a serious blow.

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AP Aerospace writer Marcia Dunn in Cape Canaveral, Florida, contributed to this report.