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ISS: European Cargo Craft Undocks

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European Cargo Craft Undocks

After a three-day delay, the European Space Agency’s “Edoardo Amaldi” Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) undocked from the aft port of the International Space Station’s Zvezda service module at 5:44 p.m. EDT Friday.

Tuesday’s initial attempt to undock the European cargo ship was called off due to a communications error between the Zvezda module’s proximity communications equipment and computers on the ATV. Russian flight controllers resolved the problem, and space station Program management approved a second undocking attempt.

Expedition 33 Flight Engineers Yuri Malenchenko and Aki Hoshide, who together closed up the hatches to ATV-3 Monday, monitored its automated departure from a control panel inside Zvezda. Meanwhile, Commander Suni Williams photographed the departing space freighter to document the condition of its docking assembly.

ATV-3, now filled with trash and unneeded items, backed away to a safe distance from the orbiting complex after undocking. Once it reaches distance about 4,500 miles in front of the station, the European cargo craft will fire its engines twice on Tuesday, Oct. 2, to send it into the Earth’s atmosphere for a planned destructive re-entry that evening. As the ATV-3 plunges back to the Earth, the Re-Entry Breakup Recorder that Hoshide installed inside the vehicle will collect and transmit engineering data to enhance the efficiency of spacecraft designs and minimize the hazards to people and property on the ground even in the case of an uncontrolled re-entry for future cargo ships.

› Read more about the Re-Entry Breakup Recorder (REBR)

› Watch interview with William Ailor, REBR Principal Investigator

“Edoardo Amaldi,” named for the 20th-century Italian physicist regarded as one of the fathers of European spaceflight, delivered 7.2 tons of food, fuel and supplies to the orbiting complex after docking to the station March 28. The fourth ATV, named “Albert Einstein,” is slated to launch in April 2013. More than 32 feet long -- about the size of a traditional London double-decker bus – the ATV is the largest and heaviest vehicle that provides cargo resupply for the station.

Earlier on Friday, all three Expedition 33 crew members participated in an emergency egress drill to maintain familiarity with the location of emergency equipment and hatches as well as the evacuation route to their Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft. In cooperation with the mission control centers around the world, the crew worked through the response procedures as if there were an actual emergency requiring a rapid departure and discussed the exercise with flight controllers afterward to review the results.

Also on Friday, Hoshide consolidated items stowed in the Kibo module to make room for new items arriving aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship, which is scheduled to launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket on Oct 7. When Dragon approaches the station on Oct. 10, Hoshide and Williams will grapple it with the station’s robotic arm and berth it to the Earth-facing side of the Harmony node. The reusable cargo vehicle made history when it became the first commercial spacecraft to dock to the station during its demonstration flight in May.

With more robotics training planned Monday for Hoshide and Williams to support the Dragon grapple, Williams spent her morning attempting to replace a failed Remote Power Control Module (RPCM) for the robotics workstation of the Destiny laboratory --- one of two such robotics hubs on the station. Williams tried to install two spare RPCMs, but neither one could be activated. Flight controllers and specialists are looking into the problem and developing procedures for the crew. In the meantime, the primary robotics workstation in the cupola, where Hoshide and Williams will conduct the actual Dragon grapple and berthing, is operating normally.

› Follow @Astro_Suni on Twitter

› Visit Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

› Read more about Expedition 33

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