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New Russian Cargo Vehicle Docks to Station
ISS023-E-030584: ISS Progress 37

Image above: ISS Progress 37 approaches the International Space Station for docking. Image credit: NASA

The station’s 37th Progress unpiloted cargo craft docked to the Pirs docking compartment of the International Space Station at 2:30 p.m. EDT Saturday.

ISS Progress 37 brings to the orbiting complex 2.6 tons of food, fuel, oxygen, propellant and supplies aboard for the Expedition 23 crew.

Despite the failure of the Kurs automated rendezvous system late in the rendezvous sequence, Commander Oleg Kotov manually flew the cargo craft to its docking as the two craft flew 220 miles over southern Russia near the Kazakh border. The Kurs shut down and defaulted to the TORU system after the craft failed to recognize its attitude orientation through its sensors following one of its thruster firings to fine-tune its path to the station.

After conducting leak checks at the docking interface and opening the hatch to the resupply vehicle, the Expedition 23 crew begins the long process of inventorying and unloading the cargo. Once emptied, Progress 37 will be filled with trash and station discards and deorbited to burn in the Earth’s atmosphere like its predecessors.

ISS023-E-030596:  Oleg Kotov at TORU controls

Image above: Commander Oleg Kotov (left foreground) is pictured at the manual TORU docking system controls in the Zvezda service module. Also pictured are Flight Engineers Tracy Caldwell Dyson (left background), T.J. Creamer and Alexander Skvortsov (right foreground). Image credit: NASA

Progress 37 launched at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday (11:15 p.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It replaces Progress 35, which was undocked from Pirs on April 22 and sent to a fiery demise over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday.

The newest supply ship joins three other Russian vehicles docked at the station, including the two Soyuz spacecraft, which carried the station’s current residents to the station and will return them to Earth, and the ISS Progress 36 cargo craft, which is scheduled to undock May 10.

The Progress is similar in appearance and some design elements to the Soyuz spacecraft. The aft module, the instrumentation and propulsion module, is nearly identical.

But the second of the three Progress sections is a refueling module, and the third, uppermost as the Progress sits on the launch pad, is a cargo module. On the Soyuz, the descent module, where the crew is seated on launch and which returns them to Earth, is the middle module and the third is called the orbital module.