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Unmanned Russian cargo ship undocks from space station

After its automated docking system failed the first time, the Russian Progress 47 cargo ship successfully passed its second test on Saturday. Now it has un-docked, and is scheduled to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere.

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An unmanned Russian Progress 47 cargo craft approaches the International Space Station on July 28, 2012 to test an upgraded docking system.

NASA TV

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A robotic Russian cargo ship made its final departure from the International Space Station yesterday (July 30), after spending several months attached to the orbiting outpost.

The unmanned Russian Progress 47 cargo ship undocked from the space station on Monday at 5:19 p.m. EDT (2119 GMT), as both spacecraft flew over Kazakhstan, according to NASA officials. After backing a safe distance away from the complex, the cargo freighter will conduct several weeks of unrelated engineering tests, before it is deliberately sent to burn up in Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.

Russia's disposable Progress vehicles are used to ferry clothing, food and other supplies to the International Space Station. The cargo ships remain parked at the outpost for several months, and after the astronauts aboard the station unpack the cargo, the spacecraft are typically filled with trash and other unwanted items.

At the end of their mission, the Progress vehicles are undocked from the station and purposefully sent to a fiery demise as they fly back down through Earth's atmosphere. [Infographic: How Russia's Progress Spaceships Work]

Before leaving the space station, the Progress 47 spacecraft conducted a test of an upgraded docking system that Russia intends to use on future unmanned Progress and manned Soyuz vehicles. The Progress 47 successfully completed the docking test on its second try, after a first attempt on July 23 was prematurely aborted due to a technical glitch.

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