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2006 October 23: The Progress M-58 (No. 358) spacecraft blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome's Site 1, at 17:40:36 Moscow Time (13:40:36 GMT). The Soyuz-U (No. 102) rocket followed a standard trajectory to reach the orbit with the inclination 56.1 degrees toward the Equator.

Russian Space Agency, Roskosmos, confirmed that the cargo ship successfully separated from the upper stage of the launch vehicle in the 256 by 193-kilometer initial orbit.

The 7,290-kilogram Progress M-58 carried more than 2,400 kilograms of cargo, including propellant, oxygen, food and other supplies, according to the mission control in Korolev.

Unlike most transport missions to the station, which spend two days from launch to docking, the Progress M-58 followed a tree-day rendezvous profile.

The launch of Progress M-58 was targeted for October 18, 2006, in previous revisions of the space station launch manifest.

Antenna glitch on cargo ship complicates docking

Published: 2006 Oct. 26; updated Oct. 27

A Russian cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station, ISS, Thursday, October 26, 2006, however Russian flight controllers delayed the completion of the docking process, while they tried to find out the status of a docking antenna, which apparently failed to retract fully. The orientation antenna, known as 4AO-VKA should retract in order to avoid hitting elements of the aft docking compartment of the service module on the ISS, where the cargo ship docks.

Although the cargo ship did physically connected to the station as scheduled at 10:28:46 a.m. EST (14:28 GMT, 9.28 a.m. EST), the docking probe, which would pull the station and the cargo ship together was left extended, and hooks and latches on the periphery of the docking port could not be closed, as mission control in Korolev tried to troubleshoot the problem with the antenna.

The space station crew confirmed that it sent commands to the antenna to retract, after the telemetry showed that the antenna failed to retract automatically 15 minutes prior to docking. The crew also said that the antenna appeared to be slightly extended from its normal folded position, however could not get a clear view from the window onboard the ISS.

In the meantime, at 11:22 a.m. EST, the mission control in Houston initiated power conservation measures onboard the station, since the outpost had to remain in "free drift" with solar arrays unable to track the Sun, as long as the seven-ton ship was hanging at the docking port only loosely attached with a single probe.

At 11:42 a.m. EST, NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria onboard the ISS told Houston that he was preparing to download photos of the docking, which could be helpful to the Russian mission control in understanding the situation.

At 12:02 p.m. EST, mission control in Moscow activated the TORU system, which allows the crew to manually control all docking operations from the station. It enabled the mission control to receive live images from the TORU's TV camera on the Progress cargo ship at 12:04 p.m. EST. The crew was asked to listen for any mechanical noise, as mission control was sending commands to the docking probe on the Progress to fully extend and later retract again.

At 12:20 p.m. EST, NASA said that the power situation onboard the ISS was stabilized and Russian mission control had another orbit (around 1.5 hours) to deal with the problem.

Around 12:30 p.m. EST, after a number of tests and a thorough review of images of the docking, Russian ground controllers and the crew of the station were convinced that the antenna did retract into the safe position. The TORU manual docking system was then deactivated around 12:35 p.m. EST.

Around 1:39 p.m. EST, as images downlinked via Russian ground control stations showing docking interface appeared in mission control, the docking probe started retracting, however it moved forward in small increments to minimize potential problems. At 1:54 p.m. EST, mission control in Moscow finally issued command to engage hooks completing the docking. At 1:58 p.m. EST, the crew did confirm that hooks on the service module's docking port had engaged the cargo ships' interface.

The hard docking was confirmed at 2:02 p.m. EST, and Russian attitude control system onboard the station was reactivated. However mission control still had to wait for the confirmation that hooks on the Progress side of the docking port fully closed before declaring the operation a success.

At 2:04 p.m. EST, cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin did report some unexplained noise, like "somebody was walking on the roof." For several minutes it caused some concern on the ground, however soon it was concluded that Tyurin probably heard firing of the attitude control thrusters, restoring orientation of the station, which was taken place around that time.

According to the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, the hatches between the Progress M-58 and the station were opened on October 27, 2006, at 14:36 Moscow Time.

Progress deorbits, mistaken for another reentry?

Published: 2007 March 28; updated March 29

A deorbiting Russian cargo ship, was apparently mistaken for another spacecraft on a collision course with a passenger airliner Tuesday, March 27, 2007.

The Progress M-58 spacecraft was undocked from the aft port of the service module on the International Space Station, ISS, at 22:11 Moscow Time on March 27, 2007 (18:11 GMT). According to the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, mission control in Korolev activated braking engine of the cargo ship on March 28, 2007 at 02:44:30 Moscow Time (22:44:30 GMT on March 27). After reentering the Earth atmosphere, burning debris of the vehicle were expected to hit remote waters of the Pacific Ocean at 03:30:22 Moscow Time (23:30:22 GMT on March 27, 2007). They did, but, apparently, were mistaken for another spacecraft whose flaming debris flew some five miles in front of and behind a Lan Chile A340 passenger jet, heading from Santiago, Chile, to Auckland, New Zealand, as witnessed by its pilot.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the pilot of the aircraft notified air traffic controllers at Auckland Oceanic Center about the incident about 10 p.m. (New Zealand time on March 27). The newspaper said that Airways New Zealand had been warned by Russian authorities almost two weeks ago that the spacecraft would be entering the Earth's atmosphere sometime between 10:30 a.m. and midday on March 28, 2007. According to both NASA and the Russian space agency, the deorbiting did take place according to schedule. Therefore, the Progress M-58 undocked from the station some eight hours after the reported encounter had occurred.

It is possible that the pilot of the aircraft actually witnessed an earlier reentry of a different spacecraft or a meteor. Observers of the space program also note that active burning of the spacecraft debris normally takes place at altitudes ranging from 70 to 40 kilometers above the Earth surface, thus placing "flaming debris" much farther then a five-kilometer distance from the plane reported by its pilot.

Sequence of events during the Progress M-58 reentry on March 27, 2007*:

New Zealand time
1 Pilot witnesses reentry 10:00 10 p.m.
2 Progress M-58 undocks from the station 18:11 6:11 a.m. (March 28)
3 Progress M-58 fires braking engine 22:44:30 10:44 a.m. (March 28)
4 Estimated atmospheric entry at the altitude of 95 kilometers (242) 23:18 11:18 a.m. (March 28)
5 Estimated initial desintegration of the spacecraft at the altitude of 70 kilometers (242) 23:24 11:24 a.m. (March 28)
6 Progress M-58 calculated impact time 23:30:22 11:30 a.m. (March 28)

*Time, according to Roscosmos, unless noted otherwise




The Progress M-58 spacecraft on the launch pad in Baikonur in October 2006. Credit: RKK Energia


Photo taken by ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter onboard the ISS shows the Progress M-58 ship during the approach to the station, with a troublesome orientation antenna visible. Credit: NASA TV


The Progress M-58 (right) as viewed by cameras onboard the station soon after its docking on Oct. 26, 2006. Credit: NASA TV


First images from the TORU system onboard Progress M-58 received during trobleshooting of the docking problems on Oct. 26, 2006, show elements of the ISS. Credit: NASA TV