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Progress MS-03 resupplies the ISS
A fresh cargo ship lifted off from Baikonur on July 17, 2016, heading to the International Space Station, ISS. Two days later, it successfully delivered more than 2.4 tons of various supplies for the 48th long-duration expedition on the station. In the ISS flight manifest, the Progress MS-03 spacecraft has a designation 64P denoting the 64th Russian cargo mission heading to the outpost, while in production documentation it was designated No. 433.
Preparations for launch
The launch of Progress MS-03 was originally scheduled for April 30, 2016, but was postponed as a result of an overall reshuffle of the flight manifest for the International Space Station, ISS. At the beginning of June, the mission was rescheduled from July 4 to July 17, 2016.
The cargo ship's launch campaign began with the arrival of the vehicle to the launch site on Jan. 25, 2016. The irreversible process began with the fueling of the ship with propellants and loading of pressurized gases completed by July 8, 2016. Progress MS-03 was then transported back to its processing building at Site 254 for final operations. On July 11, RKK Energia team completed integration of the spacecraft with its launch vehicle adapter. Next day, specialists conducted the final inspection of the ship and it was rolled inside its protective shroud.
On July 13, the fully encapsulated upper composite with the Progress MS-03 was transferred from Site 254 to Site 31 for integration with its Soyuz-U launch vehicle. The operation was completed on July 14. On the same day, the State Commission overseeing the launch cleared the vehicle for the rollout to the launch pad at Site 31 at 04:30 Moscow Time on July 15, 2016.
Final integration of the Soyuz-U rocket with Progress MS-03 on July 14, 2016.
A Soyuz-U rocket carrying the 7,290-kilogram Progress MS-03 cargo ship lifted off from Pad 6 at Site 31 in Baikonur on July 17, 2016, at 00:41:46 Moscow Time (5:41 p.m. EDT on July 16). At the time of lalunch, the International Space Station was flying about 250 miles over Eastern Chad.
Following a vertical liftoff, the launch vehicle headed eastward from Baikonur matching an orbital inclination of 51.66 degrees towad the Equator. Four boosters of the first stage separated nearly two minutes into the flight, while the second stage continued firing until 4.7 minutes into the flight.
The third stage ignited moments before the separation of the second stage, firing through a lattice structure connecting the two boosters and ensuring the continuous thrust during the entire ascent to orbit.
Less than 10 seconds after the separation of the second stage, the payload fairing protecting the spacecraft split into two halves and fell off. A fraction of a second later, the aft cylindrical section of the third stage split into three segments and dropped off, ensuring the fall of all the debris into the same drop zone 1,576 kilometers from the launch site.
In the meantime, the third stage kept firing until almost nine minutes into the flight. Progress MS-03 separated from the third stage of the launch vehicle at 00:50:31.17 Moscow Time (5:50 p.m. EDT), just over three seconds after the third stage engine shutdown.
According to post-launch announcement from NASA, the resupply ship successfully reached its preliminary orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas as planned.
The spacecraft ended up in its initial parking orbit close to the prescribed parameters:
At the time when the Progress-MS-03 reached its initial orbit, the ISS was projected to be in a 401.66 by 421.26-kilometer orbit, 328.8 degrees away from the cargo ship in the so-called phasing angle. Without any additional maneuvers, the spacecraft would remain in orbit for around 30 hours or 20 revolutions around the Earth.
Rendezvous and docking
The Progress MS-03 mission used the two-day, 34-orbit trip to the station instead of the currently available six-hour rendezvous profile.
During the long-range rendezvous process, the cargo ship conducted a dual maneuver on July 17, during the third orbit of the mission, to enter a prescribed phasing orbit with the station and a single orbit correction had been performed on July 18, before the autonomous rendezvous process began. The maneuvers were initiated according to the following timeline and had to result in following orbital parameters:
The autonomous rendezvous process between the spacecraft and the station was to be initiated on July 19, at 01:03:33 Moscow Time (it will be 6:03 p.m. EDT on July 18). Final maneuvers, including flyaround of the station, station-keeping and berthing were scheduled to commence at 03:02:20 Moscow Time on July 19 (8:02 p.m. EDT on July 18).
According to the flight schedule, Progress MS-03 was scheduled to dock at the Earth-facing port of the Pirs Docking Compartment, SO1, the part of the Russian segment of the ISS on July 19, 2016, at 03:22:53 Moscow Time (8:22 p.m. EDT on July 18), during 34th orbit of the cargo mission. The actual contact between the two spaceraft took place around a minute earlier, at 03:20 Moscow Time on July 19 (8:20 p.m. EDT on July 18). According to the Russian mission control in Korolev, the docking was conducted in fully automated mode under control of Russian cosmonauts Aleksei Ovchinin and Anatoly Ivanishin.
Progress MS-03 is scheduled to spend more than six months docked at the outpost before departing in mid-January 2017 for its deorbit into the Earth’s atmosphere.
ISS configuration after the arrival of Progress MS-03 on July 19, 2016.
Cargo aboard Progress MS-03:
The three-minute braking maneuver was scheduled to begin at 20:34 Moscow Time (12:34 p.m. EST), followed by reentry into the dense atmosphere at 21:10 Moscow Time (1:10 p.m. EST). Surviving debris of the spacecraft were calculated to impact the Pacific Ocean at 21:24 Moscow Time (1:24 p.m. EST) on the same day.
Read much more about the history of the Russian space program in a richly illustrated, large-format glossy edition:
Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
Progress MS-03 during pre-launch processing at Site 254 on July 8, 2016. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
Progress MS-03 is being integrated with its launch vehicle adapter on July 11, 2016. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
The final inspection of Progress Ms-03 on July 12, 2016. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
Progress MS-03 is being integrated with its payload fairing on July 12, 2016. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
A payload section with the Progress MS-03 spacecraft is transported for integration with the launch vehicle. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
A Soyuz-U rocket with the Progress MS-03 spacecraft leaves the assembly building at Site 31 on July 15, 2016, for a trip to the launch pad. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
A Soyuz-U rocket with the Progress MS-03 cargo ship is installed onto the launch pad on July 15, 2016. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Soyuz-U with Progress MS-03 shortly after arrival at the launch pad on July 15, 2016. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
During the launch of Progress MS-03, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams using 500-millimeter lens aboard the International Space Station captured a rare view of the Soyuz-U rocket ascending to orbit far ahead of the outpost. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA
Progress MS-03 approaches the ISS on July 19, 2016. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchninin opens hatch into Progress MS-03 aboard the ISS. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos