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Progress cargo ship serving as orbital lab to be sunken in Pacific

September 01, 2011, 3:39 UTC+3

The Soyuz-U rocket that carried the Progress M-11M cargo spacecraft into orbit was rolled out on 19 June 2011

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MOSCOW, September 1 (Itar-Tass) — Russia’s cargo spacecraft Progress that has flown for over a week on a low Earth orbit as a scientific laboratory on Thursday will be sunken in the Pacific, the Mission Control Centre (MCC) outside Moscow told Itar-Tass.

“At 13:33 MSK the Progress M-11M engines are to be switched on for deceleration, the ship will begin a de-orbit manoeuvre and in 48 minutes the cargo spacecraft’s unburned fragments will reached the surface of the Pacific,” the MCC specified.

The Progress was undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) on August 23 on a command from the Earth and taken to a lower orbit. “During the spaceship’s autonomous flight in orbit a session of the geophysical experiment Radar-Progress was conducted the purpose of which is to determine spatial-and-time dependencies of density, temperature and ion composition of local non-uniformities of the ionosphere arising as a result of the operation of spacecraft propulsion units,” the MCC explained. It was a continuation of Plasma-Progress experiment that was conducted earlier on several “retired” ships, an MCC expert said.

Before undocking of the Progress ship from the ISS, the Russian cosmonauts working at the station - Andrei Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyayev and Sergei Volkov manually loaded on board the Progress more than a tonne of garbage and spent equipment. It is difficult to determine the exact weight of waste, because there are voluminous, but light cargoes and also small but heavy containers, the MCC explained. Only one thing is certain – the Progress craft is fully loaded. The MCC expert noted that “at first the bulky cargoes that clutter up the station are loaded as a rule,” however, “usually something is left.”

The Progress M-11M spacecraft will be sunken in a designated area of the Pacific Ocean far from shipping routes.

Progress M-11M, identified by NASA as Progress 43 or 43P, was launched on June 21, 2011 to resupply the International Space Station. It was the eleventh Progress-M 11F615A60 spacecraft to be launched. The spacecraft is manufactured by RKK Energia, and will be operated by the Russian Federal Space Agency. Progress M-11M transferred more than 2.5 tonnes of cargo to the Space Station, including food, water, scientific hardware, propellant, and cargo for the Russian Federal Space Agency, (Roskosmos), NASA and the Japanese Space Agency, (JAXA).

The Soyuz-U rocket that carried the Progress M-11M cargo spacecraft into orbit was rolled out on 19 June 2011. Following the roll out, the rocket was erected in vertical in Baikonur`s pad 1. L-2 operations were successfully completed on the day with integrated tests that included verification of the launch facilities and simulation of the lift-off and initial stages of the launch sequence. The Progress M-11M was lifted off atop a Soyuz-U rocket from the Baikonur Space Centre in Kazakhstan. After the launch, the spacecraft reached a preliminary orbit of 149 (240.09 km) by 120 miles (193.96 km). The revolution of the successfully injected orbit was 88.54 minutes. A series of engine firings over the next two days guided the ship to set up a rendezvous with the Space Station.

Progress M-11M docked with the Zvezda service module of the Space Station at 16:37 GMT on 23 June 2011. The docking occurred 245 miles above eastern Kazakhstan and under monitoring of the Mission Control Centre and the station crew after Progress ship approached the station on autopilot. The docking was monitored by the Mission Control Centre in Moscow and the station Expedition 28 crew. The cargo of Progress M-11M included 2,813 pounds of equipment, food, clothing, life support system gear, 2,050 pounds of propellant, 926 pounds of water and some 110 pounds of oxygen and air.

The ISS is a synthesis of several space station projects that includes the American Freedom, the Soviet/Russian Mir-2, the European Columbus and the Japanese Kibo. Budget constraints led to the merger of these projects into a single multi-national programme. The ISS project began in 1994 with the Shuttle-Mir program, and the first module of the station, Zarya, was launched in 1998 by Russia. Since then, pressurised modules, external trusses and other components have been launched by American space shuttles, Russian Proton rockets and Russian Soyuz rockets. As of June 2011, the station consisted of 15 pressurised modules and an extensive integrated truss structure (ITS). The planned final module, the Russian laboratory module, is expected to launch in 2012. Power is provided by 16 solar arrays mounted on the external truss, in addition to four smaller arrays on the Russian modules. The station is maintained at an orbit between 278 km (173 mi) and 460 km (286 mi) altitude, and travels at an average ground speed of 27,724 km (17,227 mi) per hour, completing 15.7 orbits per day.

Operated as a joint project between the five participant space agencies, the station's sections are controlled by mission control centres on the ground operated by the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and the European Space Agency (ESA). The ownership and use of the space station is established in intergovernmental treaties and agreements that allow the Russian Federation to retain full ownership of its own modules, with the remainder of the station allocated between the other international partners. The station is serviced by Soyuz spacecraft, Progress spacecraft, the Automated Transfer Vehicle and the H-II Transfer Vehicle, and has been visited by astronauts and cosmonauts from 15 different nations.

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