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ISS orbit lowered prior to Soyuz landing - Russian space agency

RIA Novosti

14:3726/05/2010 MOSCOW, May 26 (RIA Novosti) - The orbital altitude of the International Space Station (ISS) was lowered on Wednesday by 1.5 kilometers (about a mile) to ensure perfect conditions for the re-entry of the Soyuz landing capsule into the Earth's atmosphere.

The orbit has been adjusted with the use of four engines on board Russia's Progress M-05M space freighter, which is docked with the orbital station.

"After the maneuver, the average orbital altitude of the ISS shrank by 1.5 kilometers to 345 kilometers [214 miles]," the Russian space agency Roscosmos said in a statement.

The landing of the Soyuz TMA-17 capsule is scheduled for June 2 in southern Kazakhstan.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi will return to Earth after nearly six months at the ISS.

Meanwhile, the space shuttle Atlantis crew and U.S. mission control team are preparing for a possible landing of the veteran spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday.

The Atlantis is on the last leg of a 12-day mission to the ISS, where its crew delivered and installed a new Russian research module, an extra antenna and 12 fresh batteries.

It was the Atlantis's final mission to the ISS since NASA is planning to scrap its Space Shuttle program by the end of the year. The space agency says the shuttles are outdated and too expensive to maintain.

The launch of the U.S. space shuttle Endeavor, which is planned for mid-November, will mark the end of the program.

Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft will take U.S. astronauts and cargo to the space station after NASA stops launching its shuttles.

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