The Progress (Russian: прогресс) is a Russian expendable freighter spacecraft. The spacecraft is an unmanned resupply spacecraft during its flight but upon docking with a space station it allows astronauts inside, hence it is classified manned by the manufacturer. It was derived from the Soyuz spacecraft, and is launched with the Soyuz rocket. It is currently used to supply the International Space Station, but was originally used to supply Soviet space stations for many years. There are three to four flights of the Progress spacecraft to the ISS per year. Each spacecraft remains docked until shortly before the new one, or a Soyuz (which uses the same docking ports) arrives. Then it is filled with waste, disconnected, deorbited, and destroyed in the atmosphere. Because of the different Progress variants used for ISS, NASA uses its own nomination where "ISS 1P" means the first Progress spacecraft to ISS.
It has carried fuel and other supplies to all the space stations since Salyut 6. The idea for the Progress came from the realisation that in order for long duration space missions to be possible, there would have to be a constant source of supplies. It had been determined that a cosmonaut needed consumables (water, air, food, etc.) plus there was a need for maintenance items and payloads for experiments. It was impractical to launch this along with passengers in the small space available in the Soyuz.
Progress is of much the same size and shape as Soyuz. It consists of three modules:
Reduction in weight was possible because the Progress was designed to be unmanned and disposable. This means that there is no need for bulky life support systems and heat shields. The spacecraft also has no ability to split into separate modules. After undocking, the spacecraft performs a retrofiring and burns up in the atmosphere.
There were many small variations between the different flights, but the major upgrades are reflected in the change of name.
There were 42 spacecraft built using the initial Progress design, the last one being launched in May 1990.
The bureau in charge of designing the freighter was TsKBEM (now RKK Energia). They began work on the design in mid-1973, assigning Progress the GRAU index 11F615A15. The design was complete by February 1974, and the first production model was ready for launch in November 1977. Progress 1 launched on January 20, 1978 aboard the same rocket used to launch the Soyuz. It still featured the same launch shroud as the Soyuz, though this was purely for aerodynamic purposes as the launch escape system had been deactivated.
This first version of Progress had a mass of 7,020 kg and carried 2,300 kg of cargo, or 30% of its launch weight. It had the same diameter as the Soyuz at 2.2 metres, but was 8 metres in length—slightly longer. The autonomous flight time was 3 days, the same time as that of the Soyuz ferry. It could spend one month docked. Progress always docked to the aft port of the station it was resupplying.
Progress-M 11F615A55 (1989-present)
The upgraded Progress M (GRAU: 11F615A55, manufacturer's designation: 7K-TGM) was first launched in August 1989. The first 43 flights all went to Mir; following Mir's re-entry, Progress was used as the resupply vehicle for the International Space Station. As of May 2008, there have been 29 Progress flights to the ISS and more are scheduled.
The Progress M is essentially the same spacecraft as the Progress, but it features improvements based on the Soyuz T and TM designs. It can spend up to 30 days in autonomous flight and is able to carry 100 kg more. Also, unlike the old Progress crafts, it can return items to Earth. This is accomplished by using the Raduga capsule, which can carry up to 150 kg of cargo. It is 1.5 m long and 60 cm in diameter and has a "dry weight" of 350 kg. Progress M can also dock to the forward port of the station and still transfer fuel. It uses the same rendezvous system as the Soyuz, and it features solar panels for the first time.
Progress-M 11F615A60 (2008-present)
A new modification of the Progress spacecraft, with new TsVM-101 digital flight computer and MBITS digital telemetry system,, was first launched on November 26, 2008, at 12:38 UTC from the Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome spaceport aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. The first spacecraft of this series was Progress M-01M
The spacecraft belongs to the so-called 400 series (GRAU: 11F615A60), and all modifications applied to it will be subsequently used in the production of new Soyuz-TMA-M manned spacecraft.
Progress M1 (2000-present)
Progress M1 is another variant, capable of carrying more propellant (but less total cargo) to the space stations. There have been 11 of these flights.
Progress M2 was a planned variant, which was a proposed design for the proposed Mir-2 space station, but was dropped due to financial issues. The M2 variant would have a larger service module for larger cargo or space station modules and would have been launched on a Zenit launch vehicle.
Progress spacecraft are currently used to resupply the International Space Station (ISS). Between February 1, 2003 and July 26, 2005, they were the only spacecraft available to transport large quantities of supplies to the station, as the Space Shuttle fleet was grounded after the breakup of Columbia at the end of STS-107. For ISS missions, the Progress M1 variant is used, which moves the water tanks from the propellant and refueling module to the pressurized section, and as a result is able to carry more propellant.
Like the Soyuz (and unlike most American spacecraft), the Progress has an autonomous navigation system that usually allows for automatic docking with the space station. It can be manually overridden if necessary.
The European Space Agency (ESA) operates its own type of supply freighter, the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV). The first of these, named Jules Verne, was launched at 04:03 GMT on March 9, 2008. ATVs can carry up to 9 tonnes of cargo into space, roughly three times as much as the Progress, and will be launched every 12–18 months by Ariane 5 rockets.
The new American Orion spacecraft, which will replace the Space Shuttle after 2010, will have, like Progress, two unmanned variants. One version will retain the pressurized crew module, but will be outfitted with storage lockers that can allow astronauts to bring fresh equipment onboard, along with being able to return experiments to Earth. Another version, with the crew module replaced with a docking ring on an enlarged service module, will allow the ISS to be boosted into a higher (350+ km) orbit, allowing the ISS to avoid most of the atmosphere and reducing the need to reboost the station on a regular basis.
RKK Energia has proposed as a replacement for the Progress spacecraft a new spacecraft by the name of Parom, which means ferry in Russian. This new spacecraft would retrieve either the proposed Kliper or any other cargo container with a Russian airlock up to 15 tons back to the ISS.
Published - July 2009
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