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Progress cargo spacecraft to be undocked from ISS and sunk

October 29, 2011, 2:08 UTC+3

An MCC official noted that the cargo spaceship, docked to the Pirs transfer module has stayed within the orbital complex for exactly six months

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MOSCOW, October 29 (Itar-Tass) — The Progress cargo spacecraft, filled with garbage that accumulated on the International Space Station (ISS) will be sunken in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday night, the Mission Control Centre (MCC) outside Moscow told Itar-Tass.

“At 13:04, Moscow time, on command from Earth, the Progress M-10M ship will undock from the ISS, and in about 4 hours the spacecraft’s debris will fall in a designated area in the South Pacific,” the MCC specified.

An MCC official noted that the cargo spaceship, docked to the Pirs transfer module has stayed within the orbital complex for exactly six months. According to initial plan, it was to be sunk in late August, before the arrival of Progress M-12M. However, due to malfunction of the carrier rocket during the Progress M-12M launch, the cargo craft was lost, and Progress M-10M remained in orbit as waste container for another two months.

During this period Russian cosmonauts of the ISS Expedition 27/28 and Expedition 28/29 crews - Andrei Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyayev and Sergei Volkov manually loaded more than one tonne of garbage and spent equipment on board the Progress.

The next cargo spacecraft - Progress M-13M, which will deliver to the station more than 2.5 tonnes of cargoes, is to dock to the ISS on the place of Progress M-10M on November 2. Until its arrival there will be no cargo ships within the orbital complex, there will be only “lifeboat” for the crew – the manned Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft.

In December 2005, the MCC started the practice of not sinking the Progress spaceships before the arrival of a new cargo craft in orbit, as it was done earlier, but fully use the reserves of oxygen available on its board, and maximally load the cargo craft with the equipment that is being removed form the station. In addition to oxygen, specialists maximally take fuel from the cargo craft, leaving only the needed minimum for de-orbiting the Progress. Since April 2007, almost all cargo spacecraft undocked from the ISS were used as orbiting laboratories - during their autonomous flight various scientific experiments were conducted on them.

The Progress is a Russian expendable freighter spacecraft. The spacecraft is an unmanned resupply spacecraft during its flight but upon docking with a space station, it allows astronauts inside, hence it is classified manned by the manufacturer. It was derived from the Soyuz spacecraft, and is launched with the Soyuz rocket. It is currently used to supply the International Space Station, but was originally used to supply Soviet space stations for many years. There are three to four flights of the Progress spacecraft to the ISS per year. Each spacecraft remains docked until shortly before the new one, or a Soyuz (which uses the same docking ports) arrives. Then it is filled with waste, disconnected, deorbited, and destroyed in the atmosphere. Because of the different Progress variants used for ISS, NASA uses its own nomenclature where “ISS 1P” means the first Progress spacecraft to ISS.

It has carried fuel and other supplies to all the space stations since Salyut 6. The idea for the Progress came from the realisation that in order for long duration space missions to be possible, there would have to be a constant source of supplies. It had been determined that a cosmonaut needed consumables (water, air, food, etc.) plus there was a need for maintenance items and payloads for experiments. It was impractical to launch this along with passengers in the small space available in the Soyuz.

According to calculations of the MCC specialists, the Progress M-10M debris will on Saturday sink in the Pacific Ocean at about 17:01 MSK.

The ISS is a joint project between the five participating space agencies, the American NASA, the Russian RKA, the Japanese JAXA, the European ESA, and the Canadian CSA. The ownership and use of the space station is established in intergovernmental treaties and agreements which divide the station into two areas and allow the Russian Federation to retain full ownership of Russian Orbital Segment (ROS)/(RS), with the US Orbital Segment (USOS) allocated between the other international partners. The station is serviced by Soyuz spacecraft, Progress spacecraft, the Automated Transfer Vehicle and the H-II Transfer Vehicle, and has been visited by astronauts and cosmonauts from 15 different nations.

The assembly of the International Space Station, a major endeavour in space architecture, began in November 1998. Russian modules launch and dock robotically, with the exception of Rassvet. All other modules were delivered by space shuttle, which required installation by ISS and shuttle crewmembers using the SSRMS and EVAs; as of 5 June 2011, they had added 159 components during more than 1,000 hours of EVA activity. 127 of these spacewalks originated from the station, while the remaining 32 were launched from the airlocks of docked space shuttles. The beta angle of the station had to be considered at all times during construction, as the station's beta angle is directly related to the percentage of its orbit that the station (as well as any docked or docking spacecraft) is exposed to the sun; the space shuttle would not perform optimally above a limit called the “beta cutoff.” Rassvet was delivered by NASA's Atlantis Space Shuttle in 2010 in exchange for the Russian Proton delivery of the United States-funded Russian-built Zarya Module in 1998. Robot arms rather than EVAs were utilized in its installation (docking).

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