Wednesday, December 23, 2015

First Progress MS Spacecraft Automatically Docks With Space Station

Progress MS-1 spacecraft approaching ISS. Credit: NASA TV

The first Russian Progress MS-1 cargo vessel has docked automatically with the International Space Station, a commentator at the Mission Control Center said Wednesday. “We have contact! We have mechanical docking!” the commentator announced. Manufactured by the Energia rocket and space corporation, the Progress MS-1 docked with the station's Pirs docking compartment at 5:27 a.m. EST, using its upgraded automated system.

The cargo ship delivered about 2.5 metric tons of supplies, including food, fuel and compressed oxygen, to the newly arrived ISS crew after traveling some 250 miles. The Progress MS-1 is planned to remain docked into mid-2016.

The spacecraft launched Monday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Following a by-the-book rendezvous and docking with the Progress’ upgraded Kurs automated system, hooks formed a hard mate between the spacecraft and the Pirs docking compartment. Once the crew completes leak checks, the hatches will open, allowing the crew to unload the cargo.

The previous cargo vessel, launched in July, undocked from the ISS and was drowned in the Pacific Ocean's so-called spacecraft cemetery over the weekend.

Weighing 7.25 tons, Progress-MS is an improved variant of the Progress automated cargo spacecraft that is used to deliver supplies to the Space Station. It has the similar size, mass, and cargo capacity as the modified Progress-M employed lately to resupply the ISS.

However, the MS variant features a series of upgrades. The improvements include the external compartment that enables it to deploy satellites, the addition of a backup system of electrical motors for the docking and sealing mechanism, and additional panels in the cargo compartment that increase the protection from micrometeoroids.

Moreover, the new version has a lot of upgrades regarding telemetry and navigation systems; it also features a new digital communication that enables enhanced TV camera view for the docking operations.

There are currently 12 launches of the Progress-MS spacecraft scheduled for 2015–2018. The missions will be launched by the Soyuz 2.1a and Soyuz-U carrier rockets. 


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