Russian Cargo Craft Nears Station, U.S. Space Freighter at Launch Pad

Russia's Progress 76 resupply ship is pictured approaching the space station in July of 2020.
Russia’s Progress 76 resupply ship is pictured approaching the space station in July of 2020.

A Russian resupply ship is targeting the International Space Station for a cargo delivery early Thursday. While two cosmonauts get ready to support the cargo craft’s arrival, the rest of the Expedition 66 crew juggled lab maintenance, space research, and robotics training ahead of a U.S. cargo mission due to launch on Saturday.

Nearly three-and-a-half tons of food, fuel, and supplies are racing toward the orbiting lab today aboard the ISS Progress 80 resupply ship from Roscosmos. Station Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov will be monitoring the cargo craft’s automated approach on Thursday when it docks to the Poisk module at 2:06 a.m. EST. The duo continued training today on the tele-robotically operated rendezvous unit, or TORU, preparing for the unlikely event the Progress 80 would need to be manually docked.

Another cargo craft rolled out to its launch pad on Tuesday at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The U.S. Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman is loaded with over 8,300 pounds of station hardware and new science experiments. It will launch atop an Antares rocket on Saturday at 12:40 p.m. and reach the station for a capture with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Monday at 4:35 a.m.

NASA Flight Engineers Raja Chari and Kayla Barron trained today for the capture activities on the robotics workstation and will be on duty Monday monitoring Cygnus’ approach and rendezvous. Controllers on the ground will take over robotics duties after Cygnus is captured and remotely install the U.S. cargo craft to the Unity module’s Earth-facing port where it will stay for just over three months.

The station’s other three astronauts focused on ongoing equipment servicing and microgravity science in the midst of this week’s cargo activities. NASA Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Thomas Marshburn wrapped up the cooling component work on the COLBERT treadmill in the Tranquility module. Marshburn also set up an Astrobee robotic free-flyer with a smart phone video guidance sensor being tested remotely by controllers on Earth. ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer swapped hardware inside the waste and hygiene compartment, the station’s restroom, before computer operations on human research gear.

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