Russian Craft Boosts ISS To Higher Orbit

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An unmanned Russian spacecraft docked to the international space station (ISS) successfully fired its engines Nov. 10, finally raising the station’s orbit to the altitude required for the scheduled docking of another cargo spacecraft in December.

The Russian-built Progress 19 cargo ship berthed at the aft end of the station’s Zvezda service module fired its four thrusters during two successive burns to place the ISS in a nearly circular orbit that reaches 352 kilometers (219 statute miles) above Earth at its highest point, NASA officials said.

A previous attempt to raise the station’s orbit Oct. 18 failed when the Progress engines unexpectedly cut off less than two minutes into the first of two planned 12-minute engine firings or burns as NASA calls them.

Russian engineers suspected that the glitch was caused by a dropout in engine data, which would lead the Progress computer to automatically shut down the burn.

Space station astronauts Bill McArthur and Valery Tokarev — the twelfth ISS crew — will discard the Progress 19 spacecraft Dec. 20 to make way for a fresh cargo ship. That new vehicle, Progress 20, is set to launch spaceward from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Dec. 21 and dock at the space station two days later.