An unpiloted Russian Progress cargo ship departed the International Space Station early Monday (April 15), clearing the way for the arrival of the next Russian space freighter.
The Progress M-17M (49P) resupply ship undocked from the rear port of the station's Zvezda service module at 7:02 a.m. CDT (1202 GMT) after more than five months at the orbiting complex. At the time of undocking the space station was flying 257 statute miles (414 kilometers) over northern China.
From a window in the Russian segment of the station, Russian crew members photographed the automated departure as the cargo craft fired its thrusters to move a safe distance away from the complex.
After several days of thruster firings to help calibrate Russian radar systems on the ground, Progress M-17M will re-enter Earth's atmosphere on Sunday (April 21) and burn up over the Pacific Ocean. Progress resupply ships are not designed to be recovered, so, like its predecessors, Progress M-17M was filled with trash and station discards after its cargo was unloaded.
Progress M-17M delivered nearly three tons of supplies for the space station crew when it docked to the outpost a little less than six hours after launch on Oct. 31. This was the second of three Progress launches in a row that used an abbreviated launch-to-rendezvous schedule instead of following the typical two-day flight profile to reach the station.
Progress M-17M's departure clears the way for the arrival of the Progress M-19M cargo craft. Loaded with more than three tons of food, fuel, supplies and experiment hardware for the six crew members aboard the orbital laboratory, Progress M-19M is scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:12 a.m. CDT (1012 GMT; 4:12 p.m. Kazakh time) on April 24 and dock to the station two days later.