The ISS Progress 53 resupply ship redocked to the International Space Station’s Zvezda service module Friday at 8:13 a.m. EDT after a 48-hour venture away from the complex to enable Russian flight controllers to test its upgraded Kurs automated rendezvous system.
The Progress moved to about 300 miles away from the station before beginning its return to the complex early Friday. It undocked from Zvezda early Wednesday morning.
The Progress 53 first arrived at the station last November, but an attempt to test the enhanced Kurs system was scrubbed when the rendezvous required the approach to be manually controlled by the crew because of a technical glitch unrelated to the Kurs system.
There are currently five spacecraft docked to the International Space Station, including two Soyuz spacecraft, two Progress space freighters and one U.S. SpaceX/Dragon commercial cargo craft.
The Progress 53 will undock for good on June 9 and will be deorbited to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.
A reboost of the station planned for Saturday using the thrusters on the ISS Progress 55 cargo ship was cancelled on Friday since the Progress 53 cargo vehicle had enough propellant following its redocking to the complex to conduct the maneuver on its own without assistance from the Progress 55 ship. What is now a single reboost maneuver is planned for Tuesday by the thrusters on the ISS Progress 53 vehicle from the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module to complete the phasing required for the crew’s landing in the Soyuz TMA-11M return vehicle on May 13, U.S. time.
Expedition 39 commander Koichi Wakata, NASA Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio and Soyuz commander Mikhail Tyurin of the Russian Federal Space Agency will land in Kazakhstan in their Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft. They will be replaced on board by a new trio of residents, Soyuz commander Max Suraev and Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, who will launch to the complex May 28, U.S. time, as part of the Expedition 40 crew. They will join NASA’s Steve Swanson, who by then will be the station commander, and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev.