Russian flight controllers worked to free a stuck KURS rendezvous system antenna aboard the unpiloted Progress 51 cargo capsule early Wednesday, following the space freighter's successful lift off with more than three tons of fuel, spare parts, water, clothing and research gear and other supplies for the six person International Space Station.
The supply ship successfully deployed solar arrays and four of five KURS rendezvous and docking system antennas as it settled into orbit nine minutes after a 6:12 a.m., EDT, lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Progress 51 is scheduled for an automated docking to the station's Russian segment Zvezda module on Friday at 8:26 a.m., EDT, and the impact of the failed deployment of a receiving antenna used to calculate range during the final stages of automated dockings was unclear, said Brandi Dean, a spokeswoman in NASA's Mission Control Center, where the lift off was monitored.
The ISS is also equipped with a backup manual Telerobotically Operated Rendezvous system, or TORU, that permits cosmonauts on the station to manually control the final approach and docking of a Progress capsule using televised views of the ISS berthing port transmitted from the supply ship.
Station cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Roman Romanenko rehearsed TORU operations on Tuesday.
Roscosmos, the Russian federal space agency, and ISS mission managers approved a standard two-day docking profile for Progress 51 instead of the "same day" transits followed on the three previous Russian cargo missions. Phasing angles between the cargo carrier and the ISS did not permit an express mission on Wednesday.
Launched in February, October and August, those Progress flights followed a four-orbit, six-hour launch to docking profile that paved the way for a similar March 28 express mission of the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft with the three man U.S/Russian crew of Chris Cassidy, Alexander Misurkin and Vinogradov.Russia's Progress 49 spacecraft departed Zvezda's aft docking port on April 15, freeing a berthing port for the new supply ship.