Progress freighter undocks from International Space Station

 Moments after undocking, Progress MS-02 begins its departure burns, placing it on a course away from the International Space Station. Photo Credit: NASA

Moments after undocking, Progress MS-02 begins its departure burns, placing it on a course away from the International Space Station. Photo Credit: NASA

After six months docked to the aft port of the Zvezda module of the International Space Station, the unpiloted Russian Progress MS-02 cargo ship left the outpost. A couple hours later, it was commanded to burn up over the Pacific Ocean.

Undocking occurred at 5:37 a.m. EDT (09:37 GMT) Oct. 14. Loaded springs initially pushed Progress away from ISS. The two passively separated for about 3 minutes. Once the craft was about 20 meters away from the orbiting outpost, a departure burn was initiated to increase the distance from ISS ahead of the deorbit burn.

 Progress MS-02 is photographed by the space station crew as the freighter begins to burn up, as expected, over the Pacific Ocean. Photo Credit: NASA

Progress MS-02 is photographed by the space station crew as the freighter begins to burn up, as expected, over the Pacific Ocean. Photo Credit: NASA

At 8:50 a.m. EDT (12:50 GMT), the freighter fired its engines to place it on course for a destructive reentry some 30 minutes later.

The spacecraft's mission lasted about 197 days. Launch took place March 31 atop a Soyuz 2.1A from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The ship rendezvoused with the ISS two days later, following a 34-orbit trajectory to test new systems prior to actually linking up with the outpost.

Progress MS-02 brought 2,425 kilograms of cargo for the ISS crew. That included refueling propellant (which were transferred to ISS tanks), water, pressurized gas, food, hardware, and experiments.

Items were transferred out of the freighter and into the station and vice versa over the course of its time docked. It was also used to re-boost the orbiting outpost a number of times, the most recent occurring Sept. 12.

The ISS needs these occasional re-boosts for, while it is technically in space, there is still a tiny amount of atmosphere at an altitude of 400 kilometers. Over the course of months or years, that can drag an object back toward Earth.

Hatches between ISS and Progress MS-02 were closed earlier this week when Expedition 49 commander and Russian cosmonaut Anatoli Ivanishin activated the crafts onboard systems.

The aft port of Zvezda will remain empty for about seven weeks before the next Progress launches. Progress MS-04 is expected to launch Dec. 1 and dock Dec. 3.

The station is heading into a busy traffic period. On Oct. 16, Orbital ATK's Cygnus spacecraft is set to launch cargo to the outpost. It is expected to arrive at ISS a couple days after launch. After that, three new people will travel to the space station via Soyuz MS-02. That launch is slated for Oct. 19, a delay from Sept. 23 due to a technical glitch.

When Soyuz MS-02 arrives at station with Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko and NASA astronaut Robert Kimbrough, it will boost the crew size back to the regular six people. However, a couple of weeks later, the crew of Soyuz MS-01 currently aboard the ISS – NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Ivanishin and Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi – will head home after nearly nearly four months in space.

The crew size will once again return to six when Soyuz MS-03 launches. That flight, which will bring Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson to the outpost, is currently targeting a Nov. 15 launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Video courtesy of Roscosmos