International Space Station Crew Gets Ready for Russian and U.S. Cargo Missions

Russia’s Progress 77 Resupply Ship

Russia’s uncrewed ISS Progress 77 resupply ship is pictured approaching its docking port on the International Space Station’s Pirs docking compartment in a previous resupply mission. Credit: NASA

The Expedition 66 crew is getting ready for a pair of cargo missions launching from Kazakhstan and the United States next week. The Progress and Cygnus resupply ships will be delivering several tons of food, fuel, and supplies to replenish the seven astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station.

Russia’s ISS Progress 80 cargo craft will roll out this weekend at Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome and begin counting down to its lift off on February 14 at 11:25 p.m. EST. The Progress 80 will orbit the Earth for just over two days before automatically docking to the Poisk module on February 17 at 2:06 a.m. with nearly three tons of cargo.

Cygnus Space Freighter From Northrop Grumman Approaches International Space Station

The Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman approaches the International Space Station as both spacecraft were orbiting 262 miles above the Syria-Iraq border in a previous resupply mission. Credit: NASA

Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov trained today on a computer for the Progress 80’s arrival. The duo from Roscosmos will be at the controls of the tele-operated robotic unit, or TORU, in the Zvezda service module monitoring the cargo craft’s approach and rendezvous. In the unlikely event the Progress 80 is unable to dock on its own, the cosmonauts will be able to use the TORU and manually guide the vehicle to a docking on Poisk.

The next cargo craft to visit the station will be Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter after it launches from Virginia on Feb. 19 at 12:40 p.m. The Cygnus will arrive at the station on Feb. 21 where it will be captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm at 4:35 a.m. and installed to the Unity module a few hours later.

NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Kayla Barron joined each other Friday and reviewed robotics procedures necessary to capture Cygnus after it reaches a distance of about 10 meters from the station. Chari will be in the cupola commanding the Canadarm2 to reach out and grapple Cygnus while Barron backs him up and monitors vehicle systems. Ground controllers will take over afterward and remotely guide the robotic arm with Cygnus in its grip and install the U.S. cargo craft to Unity’s Earth-facing port where it will stay for three months.

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