European cargo ship undocking aborted

CBS News

Trouble with a control panel aboard the Russian Zvezda command module prevented the planned undocking of an unmanned European cargo ship from the International Space Station Tuesday. After initial troubleshooting, the station crew was told to stand down pending additional analysis on the ground.

Undocking of the European Space Agency's third Automated Transfer Vehicle, or ATV, from the aft port of the Zvezda module had been scheduled for 6:35 p.m. EDT (GMT-4). Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko attempted to send a command to begin the undocking sequence on time, but the command apparently never reached the docking mechanism.

About 45 minutes later, Russian flight controllers called off any additional attempts.

"Thank you so much for your hard work, and I'm sorry we didn't do it today," a Russian flight controller radioed.

"That's OK," replied veteran cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko. "Next time, it will be a successful one."

The ATV was launched from Kourou, French Guiana, on March 23 and completed an automated rendezvous and docking five days later. Named after Edoardo Amaldi, an Italian physicist, the ATV was packed with some 4.5 tons of propellant, 628 pounds of water, 220 pounds of oxygen and 2.4 tons of dry cargo, including experiment hardware, spare parts, food, clothing and other material.

The bus-size cargo craft is now loaded with trash and no-longer needed equipment. It is not equipped with a heat shield and is designed to burn up in the atmosphere during re-entry.

There is no immediate need to detach the ATV and Russian engineers, working with their counterparts at the European Space Agency, are expected to take their time assessing the problem, and what might be needed to correct it, before making another undocking attempt.

Editor's note...
The ATV-3 vehicle successfully undocked at 5:44 p.m. EDT on Friday, Sept. 29.