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Russian Cargo Craft Docks to Station
Progress 50 docks with space station

The ISS Progress 50 cargo vehicle docks to the International Space Station's Pirs docking compartment. Credit: NASA TV

An unpiloted Russian cargo ship carrying nearly three tons of supplies for the Expedition 34 crew docked to the International Space Station less than six hours after launch Monday.

The ISS Progress 50 resupply ship docked with the station’s Pirs docking compartment at 3:35 p.m. EST, delivering 1,764 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen and air, 926 pounds of water and 3,000 pounds of spare parts, experiment hardware and logistics equipment --- 2.9 tons of supplies in all. The space freighter launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9:41 a.m. EST (8:41 p.m. Kazakhstan time) on an accelerated, four-orbit journey to rendezvous with the station.

› Watch video of Progress 50 docking
› Watch video of Progress 50 launch

Inside the station’s Zvezda service module, Expedition 34 Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Roman Romanenko monitored key events during Progress 50’s rendezvous and docking using TORU, the Russian telerobotically operated rendezvous system. The Progress is designed to dock automatically via the Kurs automated rendezvous system, but the crew can use TORU to take over the process if difficulties arise.

Progress 50

ISS Progress 50 launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Credit: NASA TV

The docking port on Pirs was previously occupied by the ISS Progress 48 cargo craft, which departed Saturday at 8:15 a.m. after spending six months at the station.

› Read about the Progress 48 undocking

As they awaited the expedited arrival of Progress 50, the Expedition 34 crew members focused on experiment operations, upgrading software and packing items to be returned in March on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

Commander Kevin Ford spent much of his day working with the Capillary Flow Experiment. Results from this experiment, which takes a close look at how fluids flow across surfaces with complex geometries in a weightless environment, will improve computer models used to design fluid transfer systems and fuel tanks on future spacecraft.

Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn upgraded software for the Urine Processor Assembly of the Water Recovery System, part of the station’s Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System. Marshburn also collected and tested samples from the potable water dispenser to ensure that the station’s water remains safe to drink.

In addition to assisting Marshburn with the software upgrade, Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield conducted another session with the InSPACE-3 experiment, which examines the physical property changes in fluids containing ellipsoid-shaped particles when a magnetic field is applied. These colloidal fluids are classified as smart materials, transitioning to a solid-like state in the presence of a magnetic field, and this technology may lead to the design of bridges and buildings that can better withstand earthquakes.

Hadfield rounded out his day packing items for return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft, set to launch on March 1. Dragon is the only vehicle in the station’s cargo fleet that not only takes cargo to the station, but also brings back cargo and experiment samples to Earth.

On the Russian side of the station, Flight Engineer Evgeny Tarelkin assisted Novitskiy with the Typology experiment, which studies a crew member's ability to perform and communicate under stress, before moving on to the Vizir Earth-observation study.

Meanwhile, Romanenko retrieved data from the Identifikatsia experiment, which investigates dynamic loads on the station during events such as dockings and reboosts, and performed preventative maintenance on the ventilation system of the Zvezda service module.

On Tuesday the crew will conduct leak checks at the Pirs docking interface and open the hatch to Progress 50 to begin the long process of unloading the cargo. Once emptied, Progress 50 will be filled with trash and station discards like its predecessors and undock in April for a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean.

› Read more about Progress