Russian cargo craft departs International Space Station

An unpiloted Russian Progress cargo ship departed the International Space Station (ISS) early Monday, clearing the way for Moscow’s next space freighter.

The ISS Progress 49 resupply ship undocked from the rear port of the station’s Zvezda service module at 8:02 a.m. EDT after more than five months at the orbiting complex.

From a window in the Russian segment of the station, Russian crew members photographed the automated departure as the cargo craft fired its thrusters to move a safe distance away from the complex.

After several days of thruster firings to help calibrate Russian radar systems on the ground, Progress 49 will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere on Sunday, April 21 and will burn up over the Pacific Ocean. Progress resupply ships are not designed to be recovered, so, like its predecessors, Progress 49 was filled with trash and station discards after its cargo was unloaded.

Progress 49 delivered nearly three tons of supplies for the station crew when it docked to the station a little less than six hours after launch on Oct. 31. It should be noted that this was the second of three Progress launches in a row that used an abbreviated launch-to-rendezvous schedule instead of following the typical two-day flight profile to reach the station.

Progress 49’s departure clears the way for the arrival of the ISS Progress 51 cargo craft. Loaded with more than 3 tons of food, fuel, supplies and experiment hardware for the six crew members aboard the orbital laboratory, Progress 51 is scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:12 a.m. (4:12 p.m. Kazakh time) Wednesday, April 24, and dock to the station two days later.