More than 100 Cargo Shipments to Space Stations

Progress Space Freighters Restock the Larder


Russian Progress cargo freighter in space
Progress cargo freighter approaches the International Space Station
While astronauts travel to the International Space Station in space shuttles from the United States and in Soyuz transports from Russia, their supplies and fuel are ferried up to orbit aboard Progress cargo freighters from Russia and U.S. shuttles.

Every eight weeks, an unmanned freighter carries 5,000 lbs. of goods to the station – food, fuel, water, clothing, office supplies, scientific experiments to be conducted, replacement parts, newspapers and mail from home, entertainment media, and other necessities.

A Progress supply vehicle is an automated, unpiloted version of the Soyuz human transport spacecraft. A Progress frieghter also has the ability to raise the space station's altitude and control the orientation of the station.

The Progress cargo freighters are Soyuz capsules emptied of seats, life-support gear, parachutes, re-entry heat shields, and solar panels, and then modified to haul gases, fuel, food, water and other goods to space. They are single-use ships that fly unmanned as automatic, robot ships under remote control.

A Progress capsule has a: The International Space Station orbits some 200 miles above Earth. Previously, the Progress fleet carried supplies up to the USSR's Salyut and Mir space stations while they were in Earth orbit.

Recent Progress Flights
M-542005 Sep 8
M-532005 Jun 17
M-522005 Feb 28
M-512004 Dec 24
M-502004 Aug 11
M-492004 May 25
M1-112004 Jan 29
M1-482003 Aug 29
M1-102003 Jun 8
M-472003 Feb 2
M1-92002 Sep 25
M-462002 Jun 26
M1-82002 Mar 21
M1-72001 Nov 26
M-452001 Aug 21
M1-62001 May 20
M-442001 Feb 26
Flight and docking. A Progress freighter is launched to space from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket. It usually takes two days to reach the space station.

Rendezvous and docking are automated. Once a freighter is within 492 feet of the station, the Mission Control Center in Russia, just outside Moscow, and the crew aboard the space station monitor its approach and docking.

If trouble develops while docking, the ISS crew can take control and dock Progress by using a backup remote control docking system known as TORU in the station's Zvezda Service Module.

A Progress normally uses a dock at the end of Zvezda, but it also can use a dock at the bottom of the Pirs Docking Compartment.

The automated docking system is known as Kurs. The active portion of Kurs is a radar transmitter and receiver aboard Progress. The passive part is a target mounted on the space station dock.

A docking collar, with radar homing transmitter and TV cameras, is mounted on the outside of Progress and used to guide the unmanned freighter to a space station dock.

Offloading cargo. A round cargo hold behind the docking collar has a special frame with quick-release tie-downs holding 3,000 lbs. of packages.

Behind that freight module is a fuel module with 2,000 lbs. of compressed air and nitrogen, hydrazine fuel and oxidizer. Altogether, a Progress has about 233 cubic feet of cargo room.

After Progress docks with at the ISS, the station crew enters the Cargo Module through a docking hatch and removes the supplies.

Gas and liquid cargo. Oxygen has to be added to a space station from time to time as some is lost when airlocks are opened for spacewalks. Pumps move fuel, air and nitrogen from tanks aboard Progress to tanks inside a space station. Refueling can even be done without a crew at a space station.

Progress Models
Over the years, Russia has developed four versions of Progress freighters:
First UseModel
1989Progress M
2000Progress M1
futureProgress M2
Boosting a station. Like all Earth satellites, a space station slowly slips down toward the atmosphere. It needs to be lifted back to its original altitude from time to time. Over the years, as Mir station fell lower and now as the ISS drops slowly, the Russians have used emptied Progress cargo freighters as space tugs to push the station back up to a slightly higher orbit.

Burning the trash. After the cargo is removed and before a Progress undocks, the crew refills it with trash and garbage, unneeded equipment and wastewater, which will burn up with the spacecraft as it re-enters Earth's atmosphere. The Cargo Module can hold almost two tons of trash. Astronauts and cosmonauts aboard space stations generate almost a ton of trash each month.

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

The 100th Progress

The day after Columbia. The day after the disastrous loss of shuttle Columbia in 2003, Russia's Progress M-47 completed the 100th launch in the series of unmanned automatic cargo carriers when it was blasted to space February 2, 2003, on a Soyuz-U rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Following a schedule set many months before, the unmanned Russian supply ship headed for the ISS with a full load of supplies. Progress M-47 docked automatically at the space station's Zvezda module on Feb. 4 and its stock of three tons of water, food, oxygen and fuel was unloaded by the ISS residents.

The previously docked Progress M1-9 had been undocked on February 1 and deorbited to burn in the planet's atmosphere.

M1-10. Russia launched another Progress freighter to the ISS on June 8, 2003. Progress M1-10 blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome carrying just over 2.5 tons of fuel, food, supplies and water, which was in short supply aboard the station after the shuttle fleet was grounded by the February 1, 2003, shuttle Columbia tragedy. The station crew had been reduced from three to two after the Columbia disaster to save water.

Progress M1-10 arrived June 11, delivering letters for U.S. astronaut Edward Lu and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and recordings of music and soothing sounds of nature on Earth. The sounds included falling rain and croaking frogs.

The 5,300 lbs. of cargo also included parts to fix the station's treadmill and a broken toilet. There were office supplies, CD-ROMs, computer Ethernet cards, new clothes, personal hygiene items, and an improved first aid kit. Also shipped to the ISS were parts to keep on hand in case the water purification system were to break down.

Departing from the normal practice, the previous cargo ship, Progress M-47, was allowed to remain docked at the station so both the old and new capsules would be on hand to help maintain the station's altitude.

M-48. Russia launched the Progress M-48 freighter to the ISS on August 29, 2003 [universal time]. It flew from Baikonur with 5,130 lbs. of fuel, food, supplies, water and mementos from home for station crew members Yuri Malenchenko and Ed Lu.

M-48 was the 12th freighter launched by the Russians as part of the International Space Station program.

In addition to dozens of food containers packed with fresh fruit and other American and Russian victuals, the freighter delivered new shoes, shirts, shorts, sweaters, gloves, taped Russian and French comedy films, Cossack music CDs, chocolate, and an Iridium satellite phone with Global Positioning System equipment. The phone and GPS were to be used by Malenchenko and Lu when they fly down to Earth in the Soyuz TMA-2 transport in October 2003.

The fuel ferried to the station by Progress M-48 was for expenditure from the space station's maneuvering thrusters.

M1-11. Russia launched the Progress M1-11 freighter to the ISS on January 29, 2004 [universal time]. It flew from Baikonur with some 5,000 lbs. of fuel, food, supplies, water, mail and mementos from home for the station crew members – U.S. astronaut Michael Foale and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri.

In addition, the cargo ship delivered some yeast, two new Orlan-M spacesuits, and an American-made hose to replace a cracked tube that had leaked air slowly, causing a drop in pressure inside the ISS for two weeks.

The teaspoon of yeast was for a study of the effect of microgravity on genes, from which scientists hoped to learn how to keep humans healthy in space. Yeast has a cell structure similar to humans, so researchers can use it to predict how we might respond to spaceflight. Yeast has about 6,400 genes. Many different strains of yeast already have been sent to space, each missing a different gene. Aboard the ISS, the yeast will be allowed to grow for 72 hours, then preserved in a freeze frame to be brought down to Earth in April 2004.

Progress also delivered two test dummies filled with radiation sensors to collect data that could be helpful in preparing for a human flight to Mars. For instance, what are the radiation doses that human vital organs receive during a long stay in space? The crew will station the Russian-made mannequin Matreshka-R in Kaleri's cabin, then they will take a spacewalk to mount Mister Rando, the European mannequin, on the exterior.

M1-11 was the 13th freighter launched by the Russians to resupply the International Space Station.

M-49. The cargo ship Progress M-49 was launched from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome to the ISS on May 25, 2004 [universal time].

The freighter was loaded with some 5,000 lbs. of water, food, fuel, supplies, letters and gifts from home for the station's two crew members – U.S. astronaut Michael Finke and Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalk.

Progress' cargo compartment was filled with more than 2,800 lbs. of food, spare parts, science experiments, Russian spacesuit hardware, a battery for the Zvezda electrical system, and a camera unit to support future European Automated Transfer Vehicle dockings.

Progress' refueling compartment was charged with 1,408 lbs. of propellant for the space station's thrusters. Progress also carried 924 lbs. of potable (drinkable) water and 62 lbs. of oxygen.

M-49 was the 14th freighter launched by the Russians as part of the International Space Station program. It was the second resupply flight of 2004.

Progress docked at the ISS on May 27, 2004.

M-50. Russia launched the Progress M-50 freighter to the ISS on August 11, 2004. It flew from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome on the Kazakh steppe with some 5,000 lbs. of water, food, fuel, supplies, letters and mementos from home, movies on DVDs, and magazines for the station's two crew members – U.S. astronaut Michael Finke and Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalk.

M-50 was the 15th freighter launched by the Russians as part of the International Space Station program. It was the third resupply flight of 2004.

In a test of fuel savings, Progress M-50 took 24 hours longer than usual to arrive at the ISS and it did not use its engines to dock with the space station on August 14, 2004.

M-51. Russia launched the Progress M-51 freighter to the ISS on December 24, 2004. It flew from Baikonur and on December 26 docked at the aft port of the Zvezda service module of the ISS. Progress brought Christmas presents to the crew, fuel, water, 65 containers of Russian and American food, supplies, letters and mementos from home, DVD movies and magazines for the station crew, and a German mechanical arm known as Rockviss.

M-51 was the 16th freighter launched by the Russians as part of the International Space Station program. It was the fourth resupply flight of 2004.

Progress M-51 undocked from the ISS on February 27, 2005. It stayed in orbit ten days and then flew down on March 9 and burned in the atmosphere.

M-52. Russia launched the Progress M-52 freighter to the ISS on February 28, 2005. It automatically entered the aft port dock of the Zvezda service module of the ISS on March 2, 2005, as the two spacecraft flew over the equator off of the western coast of Africa.

On its flight from Baikonur, it carried some 5,000 lbs. of water, food, fuel, oxygen and air, supplies, letters, mementos, DVD movies and magazines. Progress carried 50 snails for life-science experiments aimed at better understanding of the vestibular system. It also delivered cameras and lenses so the ISS crew could photograph the thermal protection tiles of shuttle Discovery when the U.S. Return to Flight mission was approaching in 2005. Progress also ferried flight control avionics for the European ATV cargo ship.

M-52 was the 17th freighter launched by the Russians as part of the International Space Station program. It was the first resupply flight of 2005.

Progress M-52 left the station on June 16, 2005, and flew down to burn in the atmosphere.

M-53. Russia launched the Progress M-53 freighter to the ISS on June 17, 2005. It flew from Baikonur with some 5,000 lbs. of water, food, fuel, supplies, letters and mementos, DVD movies, and magazines for the station crew. It docked at the space station on June 19, 2005. Because of a power outage at a ground control station in Shelkovo, Russia, east of Moscow, Progress had to be docked manually at the station by Sergei Krikalev, a crew member using remote control from inside the station.

M-50 was the 18th freighter launched by the Russians as part of the International Space Station program. It was the second resupply flight of 2005.

Progress M-53 departed from the space station on September 7, 2005, and its engine was fired to push the freighter down into the atmosphere where it burned. Inside Progress as it burned was a ton of trash and used equipment, including a failed Electron oxygen-generating machine, which had been replaced earlier.The remaining debris fell into a remote area of the Pacific Ocean 3,500 miles east of New Zealand.

M-54. Russia launched the Progress M-54 freighter to the ISS on September 8, 2005. It flew from Baikonur Cosmodrome with some 5,000 lbs. of supplies. Progress docked at the space station on September 10, 2005, as the ISS flew 220 miles above Central Asia near northern Kazakhstan.

M-50 was the 19th freighter launched by the Russians as part of the International Space Station program. It was the third resupply flight of 2005.

The freight included a new water circulation device for the station's Elektron oxygen-generating machine which had broken down, spare parts for the Vozdukh carbon dioxide removal system, 242 lbs. of oxygen and air in tanks as a backup supply for the oxygen generated by the Elektron machine, 463 lbs. of water, and 1,763 lbs. of fuel for the station thrusters. It also included food, clothing, experiment hardware, Russian spacesuit components, supplies, letters and mementos from home, movie DVDs, and magazines for the station crew.

Some of the clothing and personal effects delivered to the station included items for the next resident crew – Expedition 12 commander Bill McArthur and flight engineer Valery Tokarev. They were scheduled to be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on October 1, 2005, in the Soyuz TMA-7 capsule.

Coming flights. More Progress freighters carrying supplies for the space station will blast off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in the coming months. Russia plans to launch to the ISS at least two manned Soyuz missions and four Progress supply vehicles each year.

Learn more about Progress cargo freighters: More about space station activities:
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