Russia postpones maiden flight of its Progress-MS spacecraft

Progress-MS spacecraft in the Spacecraft Assembly and Testing Facility at the Baikonur Space Center. Photo Credit: RKK Energia Enlarge

Russia decided to delay the first launch of the newest version of its flagship Progress cargo craft. The RKK Energia company, which manufactures the spacecraft, revealed on Tuesday, Oct. 27, that the maiden flight of the Progress-MS vehicle will be postponed for a month – until Dec. 21, 2015.

“The launch will be postponed for a month,” said Vladimir Solntsev, the president of RKK Energia. When he was asked to confirm the specified date, December 21, Solntsev replied: “Yes.”

According to Solntsev, extra checks are needed to make sure that there is no repeat of the Progress M-27M spacecraft launch mishap on April 28 of this year and to complete all the work linked with this accident.

The first mission of the Progress-MS cargo craft, designated MS-1, or Progress 62 by NASA, was initially scheduled for Nov. 21. Whether or not there will be further delays, the spacecraft is planned to be launched by a Russian Soyuz 2.1a booster from the site 31/6 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The mission will be tasked with the resupply of the International Space Station (ISS). It will dock to the Pirs compartment of the ISS, two days after liftoff.

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. The Dec. 21 flight will be the 29th Russian orbital launch this year and the 18th liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

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