Spaceflight Now: Expedition 1 Mission Report

Cosmonaut docks cargo ship in dramatic fashion

Posted: November 18, 2000

Gidzenko, Soyuz commander for Expedition One, is pictured onboard the space station during the first week of occupancy by the three-man crew. Photo: NASA
The automatic guidance system of an unmanned Progress supply ship failed during final approach late Friday, forcing cosmonaut Yuri Gidzenko to take over manual control for a dramatic, remotely piloted docking with the international space station.

Carrying two tons of supplies and equipment, the Progress M1-4 vehicle docked with the space station at 10:48 p.m. after an unsuccessful automatic linkup and an initially unsuccessful manual attempt.

"Guys, a good day!" the Russian flight director radioed the crew after the docking was complete. "I would like to congratulate you for your bravery and heroism and your ability to be patient. You guys have used a lot of adrenalin, huh? OK, well you guys relax a bit, you've earned it. The best of everything to you until we hear from you again."

The Progress M1-4 vehicle was launched Wednesday night U.S. time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The flight plan called for the spacecraft to carry out a fully automated rendezvous and docking with a linkup at 0308 GMT (10:08 p.m. EST.

But as the spacecraft closed in on the station, its guidance system failed to lock onto the target. Television views from the Progress showed the station swinging into and out of view as the automatic system carried out search routines.

The Progress video camera views the station while trying to align itself under automatic control. Photo: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now
"It seems to be stabilizing just slightly and then it seems to wander off again," one of the station's crew members reported.

"Yeah, it seems to be oscillating," Russian flight control replied.

A few moments later, someone said: "It's still rocking around, some sort of inelegant rocking of the image here."

Deputy chief flight director Victor Blagov finally told the crew: "ISS, open up your on-board documentation. And then when you get into a comfortable position, go ahead and switch into manual mode."

Gidzenko, a veteran Soyuz commander, took over manual control of the Progress at 10:02 p.m. using the Russian TORU system in the Zvezda command module of the space station.

The TORU system uses a TV monitor showing the station from the point of view of the Progress spacecraft. Using a joystick-like hand controller, Gidzenko could "fly" the Progress as if he was on board it.

When the TORU system was switched on, the television image immediately stabilized as Gidzenko began manually guiding the Progress toward the station. But as it closed in, the image became progressively worse. Bad lighting conditions, coupled with an apparently fogged lens on the Progress camera, made the image virtually useless.

"It's about eight to 10 meters," one of the station crew members radioed. "We're real close to the docking interface."

"OK, brake, retrograde..."

What is believed to be ice in the center of the camera lens blurred the view for the crew during the first manual approach. Photo: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now
"I am," Gidzenko (presumably) replied. "The range rate is very low. We're still in berthing mode. ... The range is about seven meters."


"I am."

"I see stationkeeping from the window," a station crew member reported. "I see some misalignment."

"Do you see the docking target?"

"No, not yet, but I'm looking."

A few moments later, Gidzenko said: "The sun is right in our eyes and we're stationkeeping at about five meters. I don't see the docking target yet and I don't want to proceed until I do."

Minutes later he repeated his concern, saying "I can't see anything on the screen because of the sun in my eyes."

Shortly thereafter, Blagov told the crew to continue stationkeeping until the station entered Earth's shadow around 10:45 p.m.

The station was out of contact with mission control when the second - and ultimately successful - manual docking attempt was made. Ground crews had to wait another half hour for the station to move back into voice contact with Russian mission controllers to confirm a successful linkup.

"The docking has occurred," Russian flight control reported. "(Sergei) Krikalev reports he took a look at the television camera with binoculars and found what appears to be a little bit of ice condensation (fogging the lens)."

Senior NASA officials huddle in the Houston flight control room. From left: Mission Operations Director Randy Stone, Johnson Space Center Director George Abbey, ISS Flight Director John Currey and Chief Astronaut Charles Precourt. Photo: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now
After the initial manual docking attempt failed, Gidzenko guided the Progress back out to a distance of 30 to 40 meters to await better lighting conditions. He then guided it back toward Zarya's downward-facing nadir port.

"At about three to five meters, the fog in the middle of the camera image had gone away and Gidzenko was able to dock the vehicle," the mission control translator reported.

The docking apparently took place at 10:48 p.m., about 40 minutes behind schedule. After taking Saturday and Sunday off, the crew plans to begin unloading the vehicle in earnest.

If all goes well, the Progress M1-4 spacecraft will be jettisoned Dec. 1 to make way for arrival of shuttle Endeavour the next day. Endeavour's five-man crew plans to install a huge set of solar arrays.

Video vault
A video camera on the nose of the Progress cargo freighter shows the craft wildly rocking back and forth in a failed attempt to align with a docking port on the station.
  PLAY (883k, 3min33sec QuickTime file)

Status Summary
The Expedition One mission to the space station is being extended two weeks due to delays in launching the space shuttle to bring the three men home. Read story.

Endeavour landed at Kennedy Space Center right on time Monday at 6:03:25 p.m. EST (2303:25 GMT).

See the Status Center for full play-by-play coverage.

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At a Glance
Mission 1: ISS-2R
Vehicle: Soyuz
Crew: Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev
Launch date: Oct. 31, 2000
Launch time: 0753 GMT (2:53 a.m. EST)
Launch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Return vehicle: Shuttle Discovery (STS-102)
Landing date: March 11, 2001
Landing site: Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Mission 2: ISS-4A (STS-97)
Vehicle: Shuttle Endeavour
Crew: Jett, Bloomfield, Tanner, Garneau, Noriega
Launch date: Nov. 30, 2000
Launch time: 10:06 p.m. EST (0306 GMT on 1st)
Launch site: LC-39B, KSC
Landing date: Dec. 11, 2000
Landing time: 6:04 p.m. EST (2304 GMT)
Landing site: SLF, KSC

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