Progress flies again: Space Station survives!

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    If you recall over the summer, one of the Russian unmanned Progress cargo vehicles exploded after liftoff – the first time this had happened since the Progress vehicles were put into use back in the days of Soviet Salyut stations – and there was serious talk of unmanning the International Space Station as well, which had bad news written all over it. Today, NASA’s got good news [LINK]…

    Following Wednesday’s arrival of the ISS Progress 45 cargo craft, the Expedition 29 crew members living and working aboard the International Space Station spent time unpacking some of its 2.8 tons of food, fuel and supplies Thursday.

    The unpiloted ISS Progress 45 cargo craft arrived at the station at 7:41 a.m. EDT Wednesday, docking to the Pirs docking compartment after a trip that began Sunday from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. After conducting leak checks at the docking interface and opening the hatch to the cargo craft, the Expedition 29 crew began the long process of inventorying and unloading the cargo.

    Commander Mike Fossum and Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa and Sergei Volkov also spent some time Thursday gathering and packing items for return to Earth. The trio is scheduled to undock from the station in the Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft on Nov. 21.

    Remaining aboard the station will be the Expedition 30 crew of Dan Burbank, Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, who are currently scheduled to launch to the orbiting complex aboard the Soyuz TMA-22 no earlier than Nov.13, beginning their stay on the station Nov. 16.

    Later this year, private space company SpaceX is planning an unmanned test launch of the Dragon capsule, which it is making available in both manned and unmanned configurations, and it hopes to solidify a NASA contract to make that the next American space vehicle to keep the station supplied and crewed – long before NASA has its own shuttle successor ready. Their last announced target launch date is November 30th, 2011. I’m amazed that this isn’t making more headlines than it is.

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