A U.S. rocket stands at its launch pad at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia counting down to a Thursday morning launch. On the other side of the world in Kazakhstan, a Russian rocket is being processed for its launch Friday afternoon. Both spaceships are hauling several tons of food, fuel, supplies and new science to resupply the Expedition 57 crew aboard the International Space Station.
First, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter is set to blastoff atop the Antares rocket Thursday at 4:49 a.m. EST from Virginia’s Atlantic coast. Next, Russia will roll out its Progress 71 (71P) cargo craft for a launch Friday at 1:14 p.m. from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Cygnus will then lead the 71P on a dual journey to the orbital laboratory where the two spaceships will arrive on Sunday just hours apart. Cygnus will get there first when Commander Alexander Gerst assisted by Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor captures the private cargo carrier at 4:35 a.m. with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. After some rest, cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev will monitor the automated docking of the 71P to the Zvezda service module’s rear port at 2:30 p.m.
Gerst and Serena trained today for the robotic capture of Cygnus on Sunday reviewing approach and rendezvous procedures. Gerst first started his day reviewing details about a new free-flying robotic assistant that uses artificial intelligence before moving on to protein crystal research. Serena worked on the Life Sciences Glovebox then moved on to orbital plumbing tasks.
The duo also joined Prokopyev for ongoing eye checks in conjunction with doctors on the ground. Prokopyev primarily worked in the Russian segment throughout Tuesday on life support maintenance and science experiments.