Damaged cargo ship docks with space station

Crew-less Russian cargo ship arrives safely despite failure of antenna used for navigation, docking

A damaged Russian cargo ship successfully docked with the International Space Station today, delivering 3.1 tons of food, fuel and equipment.

Soon after the crew-less ISS Progress 51 cargo craft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, one of two antennas needed for navigation and docking failed to deploy. Despite the glitch, the spacecraft was able to maneuver close enough to the space station so a robotic system could grab it and attach it to the side.

The spacecraft was grabbed at 8:25 a.m. EDT and hard docked at 8:34 a.m..

NASA reported that after conducting leak checks at the docking site, the Expedition 35 crew members working aboard the space station opened the hatches to the spacecraft at 11:39 a.m. and began the process of inventorying and unloading its cargo.

The craft ferried 1,764 pounds of propellant, 48 pounds of oxygen, 57 pounds of air, 926 pounds of water and 3,483 pounds of spare parts, experiment hardware and other supplies for the space station.

NASA has been depending largely on the Russian space agency to ferry cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station since the U.S. space agency retired its shuttle fleet in 2011.

NASA has also turned to partnerships with commercial space enterprises to bring supplies to the space station.

Last month, for instance, the SpaceX Dragon capsule made its second successful resupply mission to the space station. The private space transport company has contracts for a total of 12 resupply missions.

Another commercial space flight company is also working to undertake resupply missions.

Orbital Science Corp. successfully launched its Antares rocket in a maiden test flight. Carrying the equivalent mass of a spacecraft, the rocket delivered its payload into Earth orbit.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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