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Russian Progress Spacecraft


Russian Progress Spacecraft

Progress on launchpad The Progress resupply vehicle is an automated, 
unpiloted version of the Soyuz spacecraft that is used to bring supplies 
and fuel to the International Space Station. The Progress also has the 
ability to raise the Station's altitude and control the orientation of 
the Station using the vehicle's thrusters.

Image to right: A Progress spacecraft sits atop a Soyuz rocket at 
Baikonur Cosmodrome. Credit: NASA
Both the Progress M and M1 versions have a pressurized Cargo Module to 
carry supplies, a Refueling Module that holds fuel tanks containing 
propellant and pressurized gases, and an Instrumentation/Propulsion 
Module where the Progress systems equipment and thrusters are located.
The Progress spacecraft is launched to the Space Station from the 
Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket. It normally 
docks to the end of the Station's Zvezda Service Module, but it can also 
dock to the bottom of the Pirs Docking Compartment.

*Cargo Module*

The Progress Cargo Module -- which is similar in construction to the 
Soyuz Orbital Module -- can carry up to 1,700 kilograms (3,748 pounds) 
of supplies to the Space Station in a pressurized volume of about 6 
cubic meters (212 cubic feet). Once the Progress docks with the Space 
Station, the crew enters the Cargo Module through the docking hatch.

After the cargo is removed and before the Progress undocks, the crew 
refills it with trash, unneeded equipment and wastewater, which will 
burn up with the spacecraft when it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere. 
The Cargo Module can hold 1,000 to 1,700 kilograms (2,205 to 3,748 
pounds) of trash.

Progress spacecraft approaches the Station Image to left: A Progress 
spacecraft approaches the Space Station prior to docking. Credit: NASA

*Refueling Module*

In place of the Soyuz Descent Module, the Progress has a Refueling 
Module. The Progress M1 Refueling Module has eight propellant tanks that 
can hold up to 1,740 kilograms (3,836 pounds) of fuel, depending on how 
much weight is carried in the Cargo Module. Four of the tanks contain 
fuel, while the other four contain the fuel's oxidizer. The Progress M 
has four tanks -- two for fuel and two for oxidizer -- and two water 
tanks. The M1 has no water tanks.

The contents of the fuel and oxidizer tanks can be transferred to the 
Space Station's own propulsion system through fluid connectors in the 
docking ring. This propellant can also be used by the Progress' 
thrusters to boost the Station altitude or to change its orientation, or 
attitude, in space.

*Instrumentation/Propulsion Module*

This module contains the electronic equipment, or avionics, for the 
Progress' systems and sensors. It is similar in design to the Soyuz 
Instrumentation/Propulsion Module. Any fuel in this module that is not 
used to get the Progress to the Station or for undocking and deorbit can 
be used to boost the altitude of the Space Station. Surplus fuel amounts 
can vary from 185 to 250 kilograms (408 to 551 pounds).

*Rendezvous, Docking and Undocking*

The Progress normally takes two days to reach the Space Station. The 
rendezvous and docking are both automated, although once the spacecraft 
is within 150 meters (492 feet) of the Station, the Russian Mission 
Control Center just outside Moscow and the Station crew monitor the 
approach and docking.

The Progress uses an automated, radar-based system called Kurs to dock 
to the Station. The active portion of the Kurs is on the Progress and 
the passive equipment is on the Station. The Station crew can also dock 
the Progress using the TORU system, a backup remote control docking 
system in the Station's Zvezda Service Module.

Once the Progress is filled with trash, usually a day before the launch 
of the next Progress vehicle, the Station crew closes the hatches and 
initiates the undocking process. Once the Progress has undocked, the 
vehicle's thrusters are fired to maneuver it into an orbit that will 
send it into the Earth's atmosphere, where it will burn up on re-entry 
over the Pacific Ocean.

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