Second docking attempt planned for errant spaceship

Russian and US space station program managers are this morning expected to approve another attempt to dock their Progress cargo ship with the International Space Station tomorrow.

The next try is likely to be at 12.17pm EDT tomorrow. The Russian-built ISS Progress 38 is conducting three engine firings to get into position.

The unmanned resupply ship was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday. It was scheduled to dock to the aft end of the International Space Station’s Zvezda service module at 12.58pm EDT yesterday.

It’s carrying two and a half tons of fuel, oxygen, water, spare parts and other supplies.

However, docking was aborted when telemetry between the Progress and the space station was lost with just 25 minutes to go, leaving the ship to drift past the ISS three kilometers away. By then it was too late for the ISS crew to take manual control.

Russian space agency Roskosmos is keen to stress that the six-strong crew of the ISS was never in any danger. “The Progress ship and the international space station are in working order and reliable communication with them is being maintained,” Roskosmos deputy head Vitaly Davydov told Russian television.

Russian ground teams are still analyzing data to work out the cause of the problem, which is believed to be a failure of the internal docking system on board the ship.

If it turns out not to be possible to make another automated docking attempt, ISS commander Alexander Skvortsov will be able to use a back-up system to take over manual control – so long as the Progress is close enough.