Progress MS Spacecraft

Photo: Oleg Artemyev
Photo: Oleg Artemyev

The Russian Progress is an uncrewed cargo resupply spacecraft that is largely based on the manned Soyuz. It is used to resupply Space Stations and was used for the Russian Salyut and Mir Space Stations as well as the International Space Station that receives three or four Progress flights a year.

Progress MS represents the latest generation of Progress spacecraft introduced in late 2015 in an upgrade from the Progress M-M spacecraft that was inaugurated back in November 2008, succeeding the Progress M configuration flown since 1989. This latest update in the line of Progress spacecraft, also to be introduced on the crewed Soyuz craft, is largely focused on communications and navigation systems that are upgraded using modern electronics. Progress MS introduces a new KURS navigation system, a new radio, the use of GPS/Glonass for navigation, and the use of a proximity communications link for relative navigation. These changes will not significantly change the external appearance of the Progress except for the number of deployable antennas present on the spacecraft and the introduction of external cargo carriers for CubeSat deployments.

Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA

Progress is capable of carrying pressurized cargo in its pressurized cargo carrier and also deliver propellants, water and pressurized gases to the Space Station. The first progress flew in 1978 to the Russian Salyut 6 Space Station. Since then, Progress was upgraded multiple times, going through a number of generations with its most recent generation flying under the designation of Progress MS.

Progress MS has been designed to launch atop the upgraded Soyuz 2-1A rocket that will allow the craft to carry a greater cargo upmass to the Space Station. The spacecraft is still compatible with the Soyuz U rocket that is being phased out in a soft transition to the newer version, alternating flights between the two to iron out any problems with no significant interruption of the supply chain to ISS. Progress spacecraft can dock to any port on the Russian Segment of the International Space Station, but usually use the Pirs docking compartment and the aft docking port on the Zvezda Service Module.

Once docked and secured in place, the hatch to the pressurized cargo carrier can be opened by the crew to unload the cargo. Because it is manned in orbit (crew members can enter the spacecraft), Progress is classified as a manned spacecraft, although it launches without a crew.

During its stay at the Space Station, all cargo is transferred to ISS. This includes dry cargo that is transferred by the crew, water that is also transferred internally, oxygen and nitrogen gas that is released to repressurize the station’s atmosphere, and propellant which is transferred via a dedicated transfer system being fed to tanks on the Russian Segment.

Afterwards, Progress is loaded with trash and no-longer-needed items before the hatch is closed and the spacecraft undocks. Progress does not have a heat shield and makes a targeted, destructive re-entry to end its mission.

Progress MS Upgrade

Photo: RSC Energia
Photo: RSC Energia
Photo: RSC Energia
Photo: RSC Energia

The upgrade from Progress M-M to the MS version of the spacecraft is not significant when looking at the external appearance of the spacecraft which has not undergone significant changes since the craft’s introduction in the 1970s. though internally, the MS version features a number of significant changes.

In keeping an overall commonality between the crewed Soyuz spacecraft and the uncrewed Progress cargo craft, the Russian space program has the unique capability of introducing new systems on the Progress spacecraft first, going through extensive evaluation on the uncrewed craft before being implemented on the Soyuz.

However, it should be noted that some of the changes from Progress M-M to Progress MS will not be introduced at once. Some upgrades are introduced sequentially and in some cases new and old systems are flown together to be able to use the flight-proven system as a backup in case of issues with the newer systems.

The same is true with the Progress M-M to MS upgrade since Soyuz makes its transition from the TMA-M to the MS version about half a year after the Progress – providing an opportunity to identify and correct any deficiencies in the uncrewed spacecraft for an overall reduction of risk.

Photo: RSC Energia
Photo: RSC Energia

Major changes introduced by the MS upgrade of Progress include the replacement of the Ukrainian-built Kvant-V radio communications system with a Unified Command Telemetry System, ending Russia’s reliance on the Ukraine for the production of antennas, feeders and communication electronics. Furthermore, the new telemetry and command system of Progress MS is capable of using the Luch Geostationary Communications Satellites to relay telemetry to the ground and receive relayed commands during the portion of its orbit not in range of Russian ground stations.

Another communications upgrade of the MS series is the implementation of a Proximity Communications Link established with the Space Station during rendezvous to enable relative navigation as an additional source of navigation data. Progress MS is outfitted with GPS and Glonass receivers for accurate time determination, state vector calculation and orbit determination – allowing a more accurate targeting of burns, even by the spacecraft itself, no longer relying on radar tracking that is only possible during ground station passes.

Progress MS also hosts an improved camera system and uses digital video transmission to deliver a better image quality to the Space Station and the ground to follow the rendezvous and use the video & data overlay for remote-controlled operation of the spacecraft if needed.

Image: NASA
Image: NASA

The improvements made to the flight control system, onboard software and communications systems will also permit the switch from analog to digital video transmission for improved video quality during proximity operations. The KURS Navigation System makes a significant improvement in the newest generation of Russian Progress and Soyuz spacecraft, stepping away from the KURS-A system and implementing a new digital KURS-NA system.

The KURS System of the Progress and Soyuz Spacecraft is a radio-based system that allows the vehicles to perform a fully automated Rendezvous, Final Approach and Docking Sequence. KURS uses signals sent from the target vehicle that can be received by several antennas on the chaser vehicle to determine its line-of-sight and pitch angles for the far-rendezvous beginning at 200 Kilometers and pitch, heading and line of sight angles as well as range and range rate during the close rendezvous.

The KURS-NA eliminates any Ukrainian-built components from the system and provides an overall weight reduction while increasing the capabilities of the system. KURS-NA needs only one antenna and will deliver more accurate measurements to bring Progress and Soyuz craft to a fully automated docking with the Space Station.

Externally, the Progress MS introduces the capability of releasing CubeSats from external deployment mechanisms. Up to four launch containers for small satellites can be facilitated in each external compartment. Also on its exterior, the Progress MS vehicle hosts additional Micrometeoroid and Debris Shields to provide protection to the pressurized cargo module against impacts of small objects. To increase the reliability of the spacecraft, a backup drive mechanism is introduced within the docking mechanism.

Technical Details

Type Progress MS
Manufacturer RKK Energia
Length 7.23m
Max Diameter 2.72m
Cargo Module Diameter 2.20m
Span 10.6m
Launch Mass 7,200kg
Crew 0
Cargo Volume 6.6m³

Just like the Soyuz Spacecraft, the Progress consists of three sections, an Instrumentation and Propulsion Module, a Refueling Module (instead of the Entry Module of the manned Soyuz) and a pressurized Cargo Module containing the docking system and a propellant transfer system. Progress has a launch mass of up to 7,200 Kilograms. It is 7.23 meters long with a maximum diameter of 2.72 meters and a cargo module diameter of 2.2 meters.

Progress can carry up to 1,800kg of dry cargo, 420kg of water, 50kg of air or Oxygen and 850kg of propellants. For the trip home, Progress can be loaded with 1,000 to 1,600kg of trash and 400kg of liquid waste. Fully deployed in orbit, Progress has a span of 10.6 meters.

Progress is certified to stay in orbit for up to six months. In its regular flight schedule, a Progress undocks shortly before another one is launched to vacate the docking port. In the past, Progress vehicles have conducted a variety of secondary missions after their cargo resupply flight was complete, including scientific experiments and technical demonstrations in space. Unlike the Soyuz, Progress is not capable of separating its modules, because it is not designed to survive re-entry.

Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA

 

Cargo Module

Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA
Total Payload 2,350kg
Maximum Dry Cargo 1,800kg
Water 420kg
Air/Oxygen 50kg
Refueling Propellant 880kg
Disposal Cargo Up to 1,600 Kilograms
Liquid Waste Capability 400kg

Just like the Soyuz Spacecraft, the Progress consists of three sections, an Instrumentation and Propulsion Module, a Refueling Module (instead of the Entry Module of the manned Soyuz) and a pressurized Cargo Module containing the docking system and a propellant transfer system.

Progress has a launch mass of up to 7,200 Kilograms. It is 7.23 meters long with a maximum diameter of 2.72 meters and a cargo module diameter of 2.2 meters.

Progress can carry up to 1,800kg of dry cargo, 420kg of water, 50kg of air or Oxygen and 850kg of propellants. For the trip home, Progress can be loaded with 1,000 to 1,600kg of trash and 400kg of liquid waste. Fully deployed in orbit, Progress has a span of 10.6 meters.

Progress is certified to stay in orbit for up to six months. In its regular flight schedule, a Progress undocks shortly before another one is launched to vacate the docking port. In the past, Progress vehicles have conducted a variety of secondary missions after their cargo resupply flight was complete, including scientific experiments and technical demonstrations in space. Unlike the Soyuz, Progress is not capable of separating its modules, because it is not designed to survive re-entry.

Inside the Progress - Photo: Oleg Artemyev
Inside the Progress – Photo: Oleg Artemyev

Refueling Module

Soyuz & Progress - Photo: NASA
Soyuz & Progress – Photo: NASA

In place of the Descent Module of the Soyuz, the Progress features a Refueling Module that holds four propellant tanks that are filled with Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine fuel and Nitrogen Tetroxide oxidizer for transfer to the Space Station.

In addition, the module has two water tanks that can carry up to 420kg of Water to the Space Station and 400kg of liquid waste (waste water and urine) back on its trip to destructive re-entry. Also, the Refueling Module is equipped with spherical gas tanks that can carry up to 50 Kilograms of compressed Oxygen, Nitrogen or air to the space station.

The propellants are transferred via connectors to the docking interface from where they are directed through a propellant adapter to enter the station’s propellant system. These transfer lines are flushed after transfers to avoid contamination. The transfer lines do not pass through the crew compartments of either, Progress or ISS, to make sure the crew can not come into contact with the toxic propellants.

The gas tanks are also located on the outside of the crew module so that any leaks will not release gas into the station and cause an Oxygen rich environment.

Instrumentation and Propulsion Module

Diameter 2.72m
Launch Mass ~2,900kg
Habitable Volume 0m³
Main Propulsion System KTDU-80
Main Engine S5.80
Trust 2,950N
Attitude Control 28 DPO Thrusters
Thrust 26.5N/130N
Oxidizer Nitrogen Tetroxide
Fuel Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine
Propellant Mass 880kg
Power Generation 2 Solar Arrays
Span 10.6m
Area 10m²
Power 1000W
Flight Computer TsVM-101

This module is similar in construction to that of the Soyuz, but it features a slightly different configuration of its subsystems. It carries the propulsion system, electrical power system and sensor packages as well as flight computers. A pressurized container includes systems for thermal control, electric power supply, communications, telemetry and navigation. The unpressurized portion of the Instrumentation Module contains the Main Engine and the liquid-fueled propulsion system.

The propulsion system is used for attitude control maneuvers, Rendezvous and Orbit Adjustments as well as the deorbit burn. The Progress-M spacecraft is outfitted with an KTDU-80 propulsion module featuring the main propulsion system. It includes four spherical tanks that can hold up to 880 Kilograms of UMDH and N2O4 propellants. The S5.80 main engine can operate at three thrust levels. Nominal thrust is 2,950 Newtons. KTDU-80 weighs 310 Kilograms and provides a specific impulse from 326-286s. The engine operates at a chamber pressure of 8.8 bar, has an area ratio of 153:1 and a thrust-to-weight ratio of 2.03. KTDU is 1.2m long and 2.1m in diameter.

Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA

In addition to its main propulsion system, Progress features 28 multidirectional attitude control thrusters, each with a thrust of 130 Newtons. KTDU has four propellant tanks and four pressurization tanks that hold gaseous Helium for propellant tank pressurization. Propellant that is not needed to rendezvous and dock with ISS and for the return trip can be used for ISS reboosts.

Surplus propellant amounts can vary from 185 to 250 Kilograms. For reboosts, Progress uses four or eight of its attitude control thrusters pointing to the correct direction. The main propulsion system is generally not used for reboosts as it puts stress on the docking interface between the Space Station and the Progress.

The Instrumentation Module also carries the electrical power system that consists of two solar arrays that deploy once the vehicle is on orbit. With its solar arrays deployed, the Progress has a 10.6-meter span. The power system also includes onboard batteries.

The instrumentation module is outfitted with the main flight computer that is in charge of all aspects of the Progress mission. In a recent upgrade, the Progress was reconfigured for the TsVM-101 digital flight computer and MBITS digital telemetry system. The new computer is more than 60kg lighter than the old Argon-16 computer. The digital system allows Progress to carry 75 Kilograms of additional cargo.

All avionics of the Progress are located in a pressurized instrument module that is twice as long as that of the Soyuz as avionics normally located in the Soyuz Entry Module had to be relocated to this section.

Progress Flight Profile

Photo: Oleg Artemyev
Photo: Oleg Artemyev

Progress Spacecraft are launched atop a Soyuz-U (Soyuz 2 starting in 2015) rocket that delivers the vehicle to orbit in under nine minutes. After separating from the booster, the Progress deploys its solar arrays and communication antennas to complete is orbital insertion process. From there, Progress sticks to a nominal 34-orbit rendezvous profile to link up with the International Space Station. A fast Rendezvous profile that takes Progress to ISS in just four orbits is also available, but requires certain orbital dynamics and precise injection by the launch vehicle.

During its link-up with the Space Station, Progress performs a number of orbit adjustments to increase its altitude and chase the space station. Over the course of its rendezvous, the Progress makes a number of phasing burns to set the stage for its automated rendezvous. This sequence is initiated while Progress is still at a large distance to ISS. Progress uses the KURS Rendezvous System that communicates with its counterpart, KURS-A, on the Space Station to provide navigation data to the vehicle’s computers while the spacecraft approaches. During the approach, the Progress makes a number of breaking maneuvers and course corrections.

Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA

Once inside 400 meters, the crew aboard the Space Station can remotely control the Progress vehicle via the TORU system that allows crew members to bring the Progress in for a manual docking should its automatic systems fail.

When the Progress gets close to ISS, it begins a flyaround to align itself with its docking port. Once aligned, the Progress stops its approach at a distance of 200 meters to complete a short period of stationkeeping during which the team on orbit and inside mission control check alignment and the vehicle’s systems. Once everything is verified, the Progress resumes its approach and gently fires its thrusters to dock at velocity of 0.1 meters per second. After soft docking, hooks are closed to form a hard mate before a standard one-hour leak check is initiated. Afterwards, the crew can open the hatch of the spacecraft to begin cargo operations.

Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA

While the Progress is docked, the crew removes delivered items from the cargo module and transfers items to the station. Propellants are transferred by ground controlled commands and water is transferred manually by the crew using a command panel in the cargo module. Pressurized gases are released directly into the interior of the cargo module and with that the ISS. After being loaded with trash and liquid waste, the hatch to the vehicle is closed and the Progress undocks from the station.

After undocking, the Progress can either support a secondary mission for several weeks or get ready for a faster end of its mission. When its mission in orbit is complete, Progress will fire its engines to perform a deorbit burn for destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean with surviving parts impacting far away from any land masses.