An express cargo delivery has docked to the International Space Station after just four orbits at 5:14 p.m. EDT Wednesday. Nearly 3 tons of food, fuel and gear to replenish Expedition 39 launched aboard an ISS Progress 55 resupply craft at 11:26 a.m. from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The 55P now occupies the Pirs docking compartment's port left open when another Progress, the 54P, departed Monday morning filled with trash after a two-month stay. It is orbiting Earth for several days of orbital engineering tests before finally reentering the atmosphere for a fiery disposal.
There are now four vehicles docked at the orbital laboratory. Two Soyuz vehicles and an ISS Progress 53 are also parked at the station. The Soyuz TMA-11M is docked to the Rassvet docking compartment and the Soyuz TMA-12M is docked to the Poisk docking compartment. The 53P space freighter is docked to the aft end of the Zvezda service module.
A fifth cargo vehicle is being readied for its mission to the space station next week. SpaceX will launch its third Dragon commercial cargo craft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket Monday April 14 at 4:58 p.m. from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
When the Dragon arrives for its rendezvous with the station two days later it will be captured by the station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2, for a berthing to the Harmony node. The Dragon is the first space station resupply vehicle with return capability, safely delivering science research for analysis and gear for inspection, for retrieval off the coast of California.
Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus commercial resupply ship aboard an Antares rocket is lined up to follow the SpaceX Dragon when it leaves in mid-May. Scheduled for a May 6 launch, its approach and rendezvous profile will be similar to the Dragon. It will also be captured by the Canadarm2 for a berthing to Harmony. However, after it’s unberthing and release from the station’s robotic arm it will deorbit over the Pacific Ocean for a destructive reentry just like a Progress spacecraft.