Progress MS-20 arrives at ISS
The second Russian cargo mission to the International Space Station in 2022 departed Baikonur Cosmodrome on June 3. The Progress MS-20 spacecraft followed a two-orbit rendezvous profile with the outpost and successfully docked at the station 3.5 hours after liftoff.
Progress MS-20 mission at a glance:
Progress MS-20 mission
According to the information published by Roskosmos shortly before its launch, Progress MS-20 was to carry around 2,517 kilograms of cargo to the ISS, which included 599 kilograms of propellant for the refueling of the station, 420 liters of water in the tanks of the Rodnik system, 40 kilograms of compressed nitrogen and 1,458 kilograms of supplies in the pressurized cargo compartment for various needs of Expedition 67.
Among unique cargo aboard the Progress MS-20 were small Russian satellites, YuZGU-55 No. 11 and No. 12 as well as Tsiolkovsky-Ryazan No. 1 and No. 2, which were scheduled for release from the ISS during an upcoming spacewalk. Also, relatives of Russian cosmonaut Sergei Korsakov, a member of the Soyuz-MS-21 crew and Expedition 67, arranged sending him a miniature electric guitar.
Mass breakdown of the cargo delivered aboard Progress MS-20, according to the mission control in Korolev:
Progress MS-20 launch campaign
A Progress cargo ship during testing at RKK Energia facility in Korolev circa mid-2021.
The production cargo vehicle No. 450 for the Progress MS-20 mission was shipped from RKK Energia's test facility in Korolev to Baikonur on June 24, 2021. In a preliminary ISS flight manifest issued in 2014, the second cargo mission of 2022 was penciled for April 16, but in early January 2022, Roskosmos announced the plan to launch Progress MS-20 on June 3. At the time, its mission was expected to last 173 days.
On Jan. 20, 2022, Roskosmos announced that a Soyuz-2-1a rocket for the future Progress mission had been shipped to Baikonur from RKTs Progress factory in Samara. It reached the launch site by Jan. 24, 2022.
On April 19, the spacecraft was transported to the vacuum chamber at Hall 103 at Site 254 for standard air leak tests after a week of initial checks.
On May 11, specialists from RKK Energia performed deployment and light testing of the ship's solar panels. The assembly of the booster stages of the Soyuz-2-1a vehicle was completed by May 19. Specialists also performed pressure checks of the stages and initiated autonomous system tests, Roskosmos said. On the same day, the technical management cleared Progress MS-20 for loading propellant and pressurized gases, after which the spacecraft was transported to the fueling station at Site 31. The fueling was completed and the spacecraft returned to its processing facility at Site 254 by May 21 and on May 25, it was integrated with its launch vehicle adapter.
On May 27, specialists from RKK Energia conducted the traditional final inspection of the spacecraft and lowered it into a horizontal position to roll it inside its protective fairing. The assembly was then lifted back into vertical position for the a launch readiness test, after which the vehicle was prepared for transfer to the vehicle assembly building at Site 31 for integration with its Soyuz-2-1 rocket. After the completion of assembly, the vehicle was rolled out to the launch pad on the morning of May 31, 2022.
Progress MS-20 lifts off
A Soyuz-2-1a rocket with the Progress MS-20 cargo ship lifted off from Site 31 at Baikonur Cosmodrome on June 3, 2022, as 12:32:16 Moscow Time (5:32 a.m. EDT). At the time of the Progress launch, the ISS would be flying over Northeastern Kazakhstan in an orbit with an average altitude of 259 statute miles, according to NASA.
Following vertical liftoff under the combined thrust of the four RD-107 engines on the first stage and the single RD-108 of the second (core) stage, the launch vehicle headed eastward from Baikonur matching its ground track to an orbit inclined 51.67 degrees to the plane of the Equator.
The four first-stage boosters separated 1 minute 58 seconds after liftoff at an altitude of around 43 kilometers (at 12:34:18 Moscow Time, according to the Russian mission control in Korolev), followed by the split and drop of the two halves of the payload fairing slightly more than a minute later at 91 kilometer in altitude (12:35:23 Moscow Time). In the meantime, the second stage continued firing until 4 minutes and 47 seconds into the flight (12:37:07 Moscow Time), bringing the vehicle to around 143 kilometers above the planet.
The third stage ignited moments before the separation of the second stage, firing its RD-0110 engine through a lattice structure connecting the two boosters and ensuring a continuous thrust during the separation process. A fraction of a second after the boosters of the second and third stage parted ways, the aft cylindrical section of the third stage split into three segments and dropped off, ensuring the fall of the second stage and the aft section into the same drop zone.
The spacecraft separated from the third stage of the launch vehicle 8 minutes and 49 seconds after liftoff, at 12:41:09 Moscow Time, according to the Russian mission control.
The antennas of the Kurs rendezvous system were deployed at 12:41:22 Moscow Time. The deployment of radio-communications antennas, RTS, was registered at 12:41:24 Moscow Time, followed by the opening of two solar panels five seconds later.
At that time, the ISS orbited the Earth in the 414.363 by 434.500-kilometer orbit, according to the Russian mission control.
Progress MS-20 arrives at ISS
After two orbits in autonomous flight lasting around 3.5 hours, Progress MS-20 is scheduled to dock at the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module, SM, at 16:02:29 Moscow Time.
During the final stage of the rendezvous, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemiev and Denis Matveev from the Soyuz MS-21 crew, took positions at the console of the remote control system, TORU, inside the Zvezda Service Module, SM, a part of the Russian ISS Segment, ready to switch to manual docking mode in case of problems with the automated system. The system was put in a stand-by mode around 15:37 Moscow Time. Around three minutes later, Progress MS-20 began a flyaround of the ISS at a distance of around 450 meters. The maneuver was completed around 15:50 Moscow Time at a distance of around 200 meters from the ISS, after which, the spacecraft performed a roll maneuver for the right alignment.
The ship started a station keeping around 15:51 Moscow Time, followed by the initiation of the final approach around a minute later. As the spacecraft was conducting the final approach, the orbital sunset took place at 15:58 Moscow Time. By that time around 18 meters separated the two vehicles. The crew noted some deviation of the ship at the roll axis, but it was corrected by 16:00 Moscow Time as the ship continued slow approach, but small roll deviation resumed again. Fortunately, key closure rate parameters were normal and the ship made a contact with the station at 16:02:03 Moscow Time (9:02 a.m. EDT), as the vehicle were flying over Manila in Philippines.
Progress MS-20 performs unplanned ISS orbit correction
On June 16, 2022, the Progress MS-20 spacecraft conducted engine firing to push the ISS away from a piece of debris produced by the Russian anti-satellite test, which destroyed the Kosmos-1408 satellite. According to Roskosmos, quoting data from its automated warning system of the Chief Information and Analytical Center operated by TsNIIMash research institute, a piece of "space junk" was projected to pass within 285 meters from the ISS on June 17, 2022, at 00:05 Moscow Time (5:05 p.m. EDT on June 16). The official Russian statements made no mention of the debris origin, which was a departure from Roskosmos' usual practice of identifying foreign objects threatening the ISS.
To avoid the encounter, the propulsion system of Progress MS-20 cargo ship, docked at the station, fired on June 16, 2022, at 22:03 Moscow Time (3:03 p.m. EDT). The 275-second maneuver added 0.5 meters per second to the outpost's velocity and boosted its average altitude by around 890 meters.
According to Roskosmos, after the maneuver, the ISS was circling the Earth in orbit with the following parameters:
Roskosmos said that a total of 320 orbit corrections had been conducted throughout the life of the ISS, including 171 maneuvers with the use of propulsion system of Progress cargo ships.
Space junk avoidance maneuvers
On October 17, at 22:27 Moscow Time, Progress MS-20 fired its eight DPO thrusters for 630.8 seconds, spending 169.5 kilograms of propellant and adding one meter per second to the velocity of the station, which increased its mean orbital altitude by 1.75 kilometers to 417.9 kilometers.
After the maneuver, the station was reported to be in the 414.9 by 435-kilometer orbit with an inclination 51.66 degrees toward the Equator and orbital period 92.86 minutes.
According to Roskosmos, the maneuver was performed to avoid a piece of space debris and voided the need for a routine orbit correction previously planned for Oct. 20, 2022.
Roskosmos did not identify the fragment that endangered the station, which itself indicated that it was a piece of the Kosmos-1408 satellite destroyed in a Russian anti-satellite test.
Another maneuver to avoid a fragment of Kosmos-1408 satellite was required on Oct. 24, 2022. According to NASA, Progress MS-20 performed the Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Maneuver, PDAM, starting at 8:25 p.m. EDT and lasting 5 minutes 5 seconds. It boosted the station's altitude by two tenths of a mile at apogee and eight tens of a mile in perigee, placing the outpost into a 264.3 by 255.4-statute-mile orbit.
Without the engine firing, the fragment would pass within about three miles from the station, NASA said.
Another space-junk collision avoidance maneuver, PDAM2, was conducted on Dec. 21, 2022, starting at 16:42 Moscow Time due to a predicted rendezvous of the ISS with a fragment of an exploded external tank, SBB, from the Fregat upper stage, which launched the Spektr-R observatory.
Progress MS-20 fired eight DPO thrusters for 620.6 seconds, adding 1 meter per second in velocity to the ISS and boosting an average altitude of the ISS by 1.7 kilometers to 417.97 kilometers. The station was reported to be in a 414.08 by 436.60-kilometer orbit with an inclination 51.66 degrees toward the Equator after the maneuver.
Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopiev inside the cargo section of the Progress MS-20 in December 2022.
On Jan. 18, 2023, at 17:57 Moscow Time (9:57 a.m. EST, 14:57 UTC), Progress MS-20 cargo ship docked at the ISS fired its propulsion system for 591.4 seconds, adding 0.95 meters per second to the station's velocity and increasing an average altitude of its orbit by 1.6 kilometers to 417.13 kilometers.
The maneuver was designed to form the planned orbit for the rendezvous with the automated Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft and the subsequent landing of the damaged Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft without crew.
Orbit correction preparing Soyuz MS-22 departure
Progress MS-20 performed another orbit correction of the ISS on Feb. 3, 2023, this time to put the station in the required orbit for the planned undocking and landing of the unpiloted Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft damaged by a coolant leak. The cargo ship's propulsion system was activated at 13:30 Moscow Time (5:30 a.m. EST) and fired for 894.2 seconds, adding 1.37 meters per second to the velocity of the outpost. The maneuver resulted in the increase of the station's average altitude by 2.4 kilometers to 417.8 kilometers, Roskosmos said.
The Progress MS-20 cargo ship undocked from the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module, SM, on Feb. 7, 2023, to make way for the arrival of the fresh Progress MS-22 cargo ship scheduled for launch on February 9.
The undocking of the old vehicle took place at 07:56:35 Moscow Time (04:56 UTC). Several hours later, at 11:04 Moscow Time, Progress MS-20 fired its propulsion engine against the direction of the flight, initiating a braking maneuver which led to the destructive reentry over the remote region of the Pacific Ocean at around 11:37 Moscow Time. Any surviving debris were estimated to hit the ocean surface at 11:45 Moscow Time, on Feb. 7, 2023.
Progress MS-20 during pre-launch processing. Click to enlage. Credit: Roskosmos
Soyuz rocket with Progress MS-20 spacecraft on launch pad in Baikonur. Credit: Roskosmos
Soyuz rocket lifts off with Progress MS-20 spacecraft on June 3, 2022. Credit: NASA
Progress MS-20 separates from the third stage of the Soyuz launch vehicle. Credit: NASA