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Progress MS-14 arrives at ISS

The first Russian mission of 2020 to re-supply the International Space Station, ISS, lifted off in the early hours of April 25 and 3 hours 21 minutes later, Progress MS-14 cargo ship successfully docked at the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module, SM, where it is expected to remain until the end of the year.


Previous mission: Progress MS-13

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Progress MS-14 mission at a glance:

Spacecraft designation(s) Progress MS-14, No. 448, 75P
Launch vehicle Soyuz-2-1a No Ya15000-038
Payload fairing 11S517A2 No. Ya15000-125
Launch site Baikonur, Site 31, Pad 6
Mission Cargo delivery to the ISS
Launch date and time 2020 April 25, 04:51:41.291 Moscow Time
Docking date and time 2020 April 25, 08:12:23 Moscow Time (+/- 3 minutes) - planned
Docking destination ISS, Russian Segment, Zvezda Service Module, SM, aft port
Mission duration 7 months
Undocking and reentry 2020 December
Spacecraft mass 7,430 kilograms
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Mission of Progress MS-14

The Progress MS cargo vehicle with the production number 448, which would eventually receive the public name Progress MS-14, was built as a replacement for the Progress MS-27M and Progress MS-04 spacecraft lost in launch accidents in 2015 and 2016. Industry observers noted the absence in the public record of traditional procurement contracts from Roskosmos to the industry either for Vehicle No. 448 or its Soyuz-2-1a rocket, indicating that their construction was paid for with the internal funds of prime contractors -- RKK Energia and RKTs Progress respectively.

According to RKK Energia, Progress MS-14 was configured to supply the station with a total of 700 kilograms of propellant and gasses, as well as 1,350 kilograms of dry cargo, including spare parts, standard food rations, clothing, medical and hygiene supplies, scientific equipment and 429 liters of water carried inside the ship's refill tanks. Roskosmos also specified that the ship's cargo included oxygen bottles with a total mass of around 46 kilograms and around 650 kilograms of propellant available for refueling.

The launch was dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II, marked in May 2020, and included insignia on the payload fairing and the third stage of the launch vehicle.

Prior to October 2019, the launch of Progress MS-14 was planned for April 16, 2020. The docking of the spacecraft with the station was initially expected two days after liftoff, but was later set for a two-orbit rendezvous profile.

Preparations for flight

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On March 27, 2020, a joint team of the TsENKI ground infrastructure center in Baikonur and prime contractor RKK Energia completed vacuum testing of Progress MS-14. On April 2, 2020, Roskosmos announced that the ship's solar panels had undergone deployment and exposure to light tests.

On April 10, RKK Energia announced that a meeting of technical management in Baikonur had cleared Progress MS-14 for fueling of its integrated propulsion system and its tanker section. Before its transfer to the fueling facility, the spacecraft underwent mass measurement and balancing at the processing complex of Site 254. The loading of propellant components and pressurized gases was conducted on April 13 and 14, after which the spacecraft was returned to the processing complex at Site 254 and installed inside its work site for final preparation and the loading of items into its dry cargo section. On April 16, Progress MS-16 was integrated with its launch vehicle adapter and on April 18, specialists conducted final inspection of the spacecraft, after which it was rolled inside its protective fairing.

According to the Interfax news agency quoting RKK Energia officials, the interior of the spacecraft (accessible by the crew) and surfaces of cargo items were disinfected to reduce the threat from the coronavirus pandemic. The operation was conducted by RKK Energia specialists under control of specialists from the Baikonur Hygiene and Epidemiology Center within the Federal Medical and Biological Agency, FMBA, and the Department of Technical Control at Roskosmos.

In preparation for the rendezvous between the ISS and the Progress MS-14 spacecraft, the KD-1 and KD-2 orbit correction engines of the Zvezda Service Module, SM, were fired on April 19, 2020, at 08:09:30 Moscow Time. The maneuver lasting 58.5 seconds reduced the station's velocity by 0.97 meters per second and reduced the outpost's altitude by 1.6 kilometers. According to the Russian mission control, the station entered a 417.69 by 436.62-kilometer orbit with an inclination 51.66 degrees and a period of 92.88 degrees as a result of the maneuver. The new orbit provided a launch window for Progress MS-14 on April 25, 2020, at 04:51 Moscow Time and its docking with the station less than 3.5 hours later, at 08:12:23 Moscow Time (1:13 a.m. EDT) with a possible three-minute deviation.

On April 20, 2020, the payload section, including the Progress MS-14 spacecraft under its fairing and the rocket adapter, was lowered in horizontal position, loaded onto a railway trailer and transferred from the spacecraft processing building at Site 254 to the vehicle assembly building at Site 31 for integration with its Soyuz-2-1a rocket. The final integration took place on April 21 and the next morning, the launch vehicle with the spacecraft was rolled out to the launch pad at Site 31.

How Progress MS-14 was launched

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A Soyuz-2-1a rocket carrying the Progress MS-14 cargo ship lifted off as scheduled on April 25, 2020, at 04:51:41.291 Moscow Time (9:51 p.m. EDT on April 24) from Site 31 in Baikonur.

Following vertical liftoff under the combined thrust of four RD-107 engines on the first stage and a single RD-108 of the second (core) stage, the launch vehicle headed eastward from Baikonur matching an orbital inclination of 51.67 degrees toward the Equator. The four first-stage boosters separated nearly two minutes into the flight, followed by the split and drop of the two halves of the payload fairing slightly more than a minute later. In the meantime, 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 its RD-0110 engine through a lattice structure connecting the two boosters and ensuring the continuous thrust during the separation process. A fraction of a second after the boosters part, 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.

In the meantime, the third stage kept firing until almost nine minutes into the flight, separating from the spacecraft at 05:00:29 Moscow Time on April 25 (10:00 p.m. EDT on April 24). According to Roskosmos, the third stage was to deliver Progress MS-14 into an initial parking orbit with the following parameters and allowable deviations:

Minimal distance from the Earth's surface (perigee) 193 kilometers, +/-2.0 kilometers
Maximum distance from the Earth's surface (apogee) 240 kilometers, +/-7.0 kilometers
Orbital period 88.54 minutes, +/-0.05 minutes
Orbital inclination 51.67 degrees, +/-0.033 degrees

Rendezvous and docking

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During the launch window on April 25, 2020, the ISS passed over Baikonur just 41 seconds before the scheduled liftoff of the Progress MS-14, however the station then overtaken the cargo ship is it was climbing to orbit. Thanks to the on-time launch, Progress MS-14 had an opportunity to rendezvous with the station orbiting the Earth at an average altitude of 419 kilometers in three hours and 21 minutes and dock at the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module, SM, a part of the ISS' Russian Segment, within three minutes from the projected time of 08:12:23 Moscow Time (1:12 a.m. EDT) on April 25.

In case of problems with the automated docking system aboard the Progress, cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner from the Soyuz MS-15 crew, then inhabiting the ISS, conducted a three-hour exercise on April 23, practicing the use of the manual remote-controlled system, TORU, which can be employed to complete the vehicle's final approach.

However, the automated docking system worked as planned and the spacecraft docked at the outpost according to schedule, as the two spacecraft were flying over North-Western China, south of Mongolian border.

The late 2019 flight manifest for the ISS missions, called for the Progress MS-14 spacecraft to remain at the station for around 220 days and depart in November 2020. A few days before its scheduled launch in April 2020, NASA reported that Progress MS-14 will remain at the station for seven months and depart the outpost in December 2020.

Progress MS-14 performs unplanned ISS orbit correction

On July 3, 2020, at 18:53 Moscow Time (10:53 a.m. EDT), the propulsion system of the Progress MS-14 cargo ship was used to maneuver the International Space Station, ISS, away from a potential collision with space junk, Roskosmos announced. The spacecraft, docked at the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module, SM, a part of the station's Russian Segment, fired its propulsion system for around 100 seconds, adding 0.5 meters per second to the outpost's velocity and boosting the altitude of its orbit by 900 meters, according to preliminary data, Roskosmos said.

According to a space historian Jonathan McDowell, around the time of the maneuver, the station passed within seven kilometers from an object designated 27923 in the NORAD catalog, which was a fragment of a Proton rocket's Block DM upper stage which delivered a trio of GLONASS satellites in September 1987.

Before the unplanned collision-avoidance maneuver, the Progress MS-14 was scheduled to perform a routine orbit correction of the ISS on July 10, 2020, to put the station in position for the upcoming rendezvous with the Progress MS-15 spacecraft, whose launch was scheduled for July 23, 2020. According to that plan, Progress MS-14 would ignite its propulsion system at 00:36 Moscow Time (4:36 p.m. EDT on July 9) and fire for 138.7 seconds, Roskosmos announced on June 29, 2020. The maneuver was to boost the station's altitude by around 480 meters, reaching 418.5 kilometers from the Earth's surface.

Since its inception, the ISS had conducted a total of 25 collision-avoidance maneuvers with the previous such orbit correction in September 2015. The frequency of close encounters had been reduced after the station began maintaining orbit with a higher average altitude than in previous years.

On July 27, 2020, Roskosmos announced that another orbit-raising maneuver would be conducted on July 29. Progress MS-14 was scheduled to fire its engines at 16:42 Moscow Time for 336.3 seconds bringing the station's altitude to 419.1 kilometers.

Following the maneuver on July 29, Roskosmos said that it had added 0.65 meter per second to the station's velocity and boosted its altitude by 1.1 kilometer on average. According to ballistic and navigation services of the TsNIIMash research instiute quoted by Roskosmos, the station was in orbit with the following parameters, after the orbit correction:

Minimal distance from the Earth's surface (perigee) 417.5 kilometers
Maximum distance from the Earth's surface (apogee) 436.2 kilometers
Orbital period 92.87 minutes
Orbital inclination 51.66 degrees

Another collision avoidance maneuver

Less than three months after the previous close call, the ISS was found on a potential collision course with another piece of space junk. In the late hours of September 22, 2020, Moscow Time, the Russian mission control received information that the station had been approaching a "red zone" of a possible debris encounter, which would require an urgent collision avoidance maneuver. After the analysis of the available data, the engines of the Progress MS-14 cargo ship were fired for 150 seconds starting at 00:19 Moscow Time on September 23, 2020, adding 0.3 meters per second to the station's velocity, Roskosmos said.

According to the NASA Administrator statement on September 23, the ISS maneuvered three times in 2020 to avoid debris and there were three potential conjunctions of the station's orbit with the trajectories of other objects within previous two weeks.

Due to the latest unplanned orbit change, the Russian mission control changed the parameters of the scheduled orbit correction on October 7, 2020, Roskosmos announced on September 23. The new sequence called for the 403.7-second engine firing starting at 11:11 Moscow Time.

 

(To be continued)

 

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This page is maintained by Anatoly Zak; Last update: September 23, 2020

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: April 24, 2020

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The solar panels of the Progress MS-14 spacecraft are exposed to artificial light during tests on April 1, 2020. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


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The Progress MS-14 spacecraft (right) is lowered in horizontal position in preparation for the installation of the payload fairing on April 18, 2020. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


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The Progress MS-14 spacecraft (right) is lowered in horizontal position in preparation for the installation of the payload fairing on April 18, 2020. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


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The Soyuz-2-1a rocket with the Progress MS-14 spacecraft (right) is installed on the launch pad at Site 31 on the morning of April 22, 2020. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


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Ignition of the first-stage engines of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket on April 25, 2020. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


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Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos

adapter

A Soyuz-2-1a rocket lifts off with Progress MS-14 spacecraft on April 25, 2020. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


tail

An external camera aboard Progress MS-14 captured the separation of the tail section of the third stage during the launch on April 25, 2020. Credit: Roskosmos


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An external camera aboard Progress MS-14 captured the separation of the third stage and deployment of solar panels during the launch on April 25, 2020. Credit: NASA