European cargo ship successfully docks with space station

CBS News

An unmanned European cargo ship carrying more than seven tons of supplies and equipment successfully docked with the International Space Station Thursday after an automated approach.

The European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle "Johannes Kepler" on find approach to the International Space Station. The spacecraft carried out a smooth automated docking at the aft port of the Zvezda command module. (Credit: NASA TV)
Approaching from directly behind the lab complex, the Automated Transfer Vehicle 2 glided to a slow-motion docking at the Zvezda command module's aft port at 10:59 a.m. EST (GMT-5) as the two spacecraft were sailing 220 miles above the central Atlantic Ocean.

The linkup came just 13 minutes later than planned because of minor communications issues earlier in the approach.

If all goes well, the shuttle Discovery, scheduled for launch from the Kennedy Space Center at 4:50 p.m. Thursday, will dock at the forward end of the space station on Saturday. It will be the first time in the station's 12-year history that spacecraft from the United States, Russia, Japan and the European Space Agency have been docked at the outpost at the same time.

Assuming Discovery's mission goes well, three station astronauts plan to undock in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft before the shuttle departs to photograph the station with the full complement of visiting vehicles.

The ATV-2 is loaded with more than 3,086 pounds of dry cargo in its forward pressurized section, including 1,316 pounds of vehicle hardware, 1,402 pounds of crew supplies, 212 pounds of science equipment and another 160 pounds of spacewalk gear and laptop computers.

The cargo ship also is carrying 220 pounds of gaseous oxygen, 1,874 pounds of propellant that will be pumped aboard the space station and another 8,818 pounds of propellant for boosting the station's orbit during 101 days of docked operations.