Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Russian Cargo Ship Reaches ISS

The Progress cargo ship looks very much like a manned Soyuz spacecraft. This one is Progress M-27M.
Taking off from Baikonur on Monday, the Progress 62 robotic cargo ship entered Earth orbit and began a two-day flight to the International Space Station. Rather than follow the now-typical 6 hour short cut rendezvous flight to the ISS, ground controllers guided the ship into the longer flight to make room for Monday's unplanned EVA by NASA astronauts to move the Mobile Transport cart to a safe location on the truss.

Progress 62 indicated two new mission equipment upgrades. The Progress ship is the first of a new MS series of supply ships, that include en external compartment for launching micro satellites, and an improved system for protection from micro-meteoroids and debris strikes. The Russian (Roscosmos) designation for this mission is Progress MS431.

Soyuz 2-1A rocket booster. Credit Roscosmos.
The second upgrade is in the rocket itself. It can get confusing when the manned spacecraft is named Soyuz, but so too is the rocket. In this case the mission launched atop  a Soyuz 2-1A rocket. First flown in 2004, it was designed to eventually replace all rockets used for manned and unmanned missions flown by previous Soyuz and Molniya variants. It has been used for manned Soyuz missions so far, but is now being used by Progress missions.

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