Russian Robotic Resupply Ship Loses Telemetry And Aborts Docking With ISS.

by Daniel Russ on July 7, 2010

ISS

A Russian Progress cargo capsule filled with 4,900 lb. of supplies failed to dock with the International Space Station as scheduled on Friday, following an unexplained failure of the KURS automated rendezvous and docking system.

Russia’s Mission Control called off further attempts to dock the spacecraft on Friday.

Controllers in Moscow were assessing the cause of the telemetry drop, which originated at the Zvezda service module berthing port on the station, and devising a new rendezvous profile. Another attempt is unlikely before Sunday.

The supplies are not crucial to planned near-term activities aboard the orbiting science laboratory, which is home to six U.S. and Russian astronauts, said NASA spokesman Rob Navias, who monitored activities from Mission Control in Houston.

The supply ship was launched Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and carried out successful automated rendezvous maneuvers following the liftoff as well as on Thursday.

The linkup was scheduled for Friday at 12:58 p.m. EDT. The troubles began as the Progress 38 began its final approach to the station at 12:30 p.m. EDT, a series of maneuvers that called for the capsule to circle the station and line up to the Zvezda aft berthing port. At about the same time, station commander Alexander Skvortsov was activating the station’s TORU manual backup rendezvous and docking system at a control station inside Zvezda.

Russian controllers had not ruled out a connection between the TORU activation, which is considered a routine part of the docking activities, and the KURS telemetry loss.

The Zvezda berthing port was cleared on June 28, when three of the station’s crew re-located their Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft to the Rassvet mini research and docking module. The Soyuz TMA-19 had been docked there since it delivered three new U.S. and Russian crew members on June 18.

The telemetry loss sent the Progress 38 sailing past the space station at a distance of 3 km. (1.9 mi.) and out in front of the orbital outpost.

“We don’t have a visual on Progress,” Skvortsov informed flight controllers. “It’s flown away from us.”

As Moscow’s Mission Control attempted to sort out the problem, NASA’s flight controllers scrambled to determine how long the station could hold its docking attitude until the outstretched solar arrays were no longer able to gather sufficient sunlight for the electrical power demands.

Within a short time, it was evident the Progress 38 could not be recovered in time for another attempt on Friday, and the space station returned to its normal attitude.

Source: Aviation Week, blogrolled here

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