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Watch NASA video showing delicate docking of Progress spacecraft

Russia’s Progress 80 cargo spacecraft safely docked with the International Space Station (ISS) at 2:03 a.m. ET on Thursday, February 17.

NASA shared a video showing the final stages of the docking procedure, which successfully completed 270 miles over the South Pacific Ocean. The footage shows the docking from various angles and includes live audio from Mission Control in the U.S.

The uncrewed Russian Progress 80 spacecraft automatically docked to the station’s Poisk docking compartment at 2:03am ET, delivering nearly three tons of food, fuel, and supplies to the orbiting lab.

— International Space Station (@Space_Station) February 17, 2022

Delivering around three tons of food, fuel, and supplies for the seven-person Expedition 66 crew aboard the ISS, the video begins with the uncrewed spacecraft 72 meters from the docking point.

While Progress 80 looks to be moving slowly, it is in fact orbiting at a speed of around 17,000 mph. It looks as if it’s drifting gently toward the ISS because it’s matching the station’s own speed in order to dock.

With both Progress and the ISS orbiting at high speed, the docking process is a delicate one. As you can see in the video, around 10 minutes is needed to get Progress from its position 70 meters from the station to the point when it can finally attach to the station’s Poisk docking compartment, which forms part of the Russian segment of the ISS.

The Progress spacecraft has been a trusty workhorse for the Russian space agency. Since the 1970s, there have been 168 flights of various iterations of Progress, with only three failures occurring, all between 2011 and 2016.

Unlike SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft, which has been journeying to and from the space station on supply runs since 2012, Progress is not designed for reuse and after departing the ISS burns up as it enters Earth’s atmosphere at high speed.

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Trevor Mogg
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