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Progress M-28M resumes ISS cargo missions

The successful launch and docking of the unmanned Progress M-28M spacecraft (Mission 60P) at the International Space Station, ISS, in July 2015, marked the return to flight of the Russian cargo ship series after the failure of a previous mission on April 28, 2015. The resumption of Progress flights acquired even more significance after the loss of NASA's Dragon SpX-7 unmanned carrier in the failure of a Falcon-9 rocket on June 28, 2015.

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Progress M-28M approaches the ISS on July 5, 2015.

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Preparations for the mission in the shadow of two failures

The launch of Progress M-28M was originally planned for Aug. 6, 2015, however after the loss of Progress M-27M on April 28, the next cargo mission to the ISS was moved forward. A draft of the emergency schedule penciled the launch for the next Progess as early as June 30, however it was eventually set for July 3, at 07:52 Moscow Time, when orbital mechanics would enable a fast, six-hour rendezvous profile with the station. In contrast, the launch on June 30, would require a two-day flight.

However, within 24 hours after the new flight manifest had been approved, a previously unplanned ISS maneuver on June 8 to avoid space junk forced mission planners to switch to a two-day rendezvous profile even in case of an on-time launch on July 3 at 07:55 Moscow Time.

With the station's current altitude, the six-hour rendezvous profile would be possible when the angle between the spacecraft in its initial orbit, the Earth and the ISS stayed within range from 18 to 40 degrees. With a wider angel, the spacecraft would not have enough time to catch up with the station, while a narrower angle would bring the "intercept" too soon and require a propellant-hungry braking maneuver. In the meantime, the two-day flight profile could be done within a range from 210 to 400 degrees. In case of the Progress launch on July 3, the cargo ship would end up 340 degrees away from the station upon entering orbit.

There was an option to maneuver the ISS to an orbit that would place it within specifications for a six-hour rendezvous, however the same change would also rule out a six-hour trip to the station for the manned Soyuz mission scheduled for July 23. Naturally, mission planners decided that preserving a six-hour rendezvous for a flight with the crew would be more important than for a cargo-delivery mission.

In addition to cutting short the flight in cramped conditions onboard Soyuz, the six-hour rendezvous profile also provides some minor propellant savings, because it eliminates the need to put the spacecraft into a spin to even out the heat from the Sun between each orbit-correction maneuver during a long, two-day trek to the station.

Dragon accident

Active preparations for the launch of Progress M-28M started in Baikonur on May 27, when the cargo ship was moved to Site 2B for vacuum testing scheduled for the following day.

On June 19, the State Commission overseeing the launch cleared the spacecraft for irreversible operations, including loading of propellants and pressurized gases. The fueling of the Progress M-28M was completed in Baikonur on June 22, 2015, and next day it was transferred back to its processing building at Site 254. On June 25, the Progress was integrated with its payload fairing.

The Progress M-28M mission attracted even more attention after the loss of the Dragon SpX-7 cargo ship 139 seconds into the launch of its Falcon-9 rocket on June 28, 2015. In the immediate aftermath of the failure, Russian space officials made a largely symbolic offer to NASA to carry emergency cargo to the station if required, even though the Progress was too far in the pre-launch processing for any major re-arrangement of its cargo. NASA also re-confirmed that there was no urgency in replacing cargo lost in the Dragon SpX-7 accident and the Progress M-28M mission could proceed as scheduled.

On May 29, a day after the Dragon accident, a payload section, including the Progress M-28M spacecraft, its protective fairing and a transfer section, was moved from its processing building at Site 254 to the launch vehicle assembly building at Site 112 for integration with its Soyuz-U rocket. The final assembly was completed on June 30.

Still, on July 1, a routine flight from Moscow to Kzyl-Orda, in Kazakhstan, delivered an American cargo destined for the Progress M-28M mission, industry sources said. The special package, which apparently required an assistance of the Russian Federal Customs Agency, FTS, had to be transported from Kzyl Orda to Baikonur, because the space center's own airfield had been closed for renovations.



A Soyuz-U rocket with Progress M-28M shortly after its rollout to the launch pad on July 1, 2015.

The Soyuz-U launch vehicle with the Progress M-28M spacecraft was rolled out to the launch pad Pad No. 5 at Site 1 in Baikonur on the morning of July 1, 2015.


A Soyuz-U rocket with the Progress M-28M spacecraft lifted off on July 3, 2015, at 07:55:48 Moscow Time (12:55 a.m. EDT) from Pad No. 5 at Site 1 in Baikonur Cosmodrome. Following a vertical liftoff under the thrust of four strap-on boosters of the first stage and the core booster of the second stage, the rocket headed east to reach an orbit with an inclination 51.66 degrees toward the Equator.

At the time of the launch, the ISS was flying over Northwestern Sudan near the border of Egypt and Libya.

The first stage separated nearly two minutes into the flight, followed by the release of a payload fairing 40 seconds later. The second stage continued firing until 4.7 minutes into the flight.

The third stage then ignited moments before the separation of the second stage and 10 seconds later, the tail section of the third stage split into three segments and fell away.

The third stage kept firing until almost 9 minutes into the flight and the spacecraft separated less than four seconds after a command to shut down the RD-0124 engine on the third stage at 08:04:39.18 Moscow Time (1:04 a.m. EDT).

According to reports from mission control, antennas and solar panels successfully deployed and all systems functioned well onboard the spacecraft.

Soyuz-U rocket lifts off with Progress M-28M on July 3, 2015.


Ground track and launch profile for the Progress M-28M mission on July 3, 2015.

Rendezvous and docking

Following the launch, Progress M-28M was expected to enter a 193 by 245-kilometer initial parking orbit. Without any additional maneuvers, the spacecraft would remain in this orbit for at least 20 revolutions around the planet or 30 hours after the liftoff, before plunging back to Earth due to atmospheric friction.

Preliminary data after the launch showed that the spacecraft entered a 193.78 by 243.26-kilometer orbit with an inclination 51.63 degrees toward the Equator, which was well within specifications.

On its way for an initial rendezvous with the ISS, Progress M-28M conducted two orbit correction maneuvers on July 3 (during the third orbit of the mission) and the third maneuver on July 4 during the mission's 18th orbit:

Moscow time
Delta V
Burn duration
Resulting orbit after each maneuver
15.63 m/s
40.0 seconds
89.11 minutes
51.65 degrees
216.9 kilometers
258.1 kilometers
22.94 m/s
57.7 seconds
89.91 minutes
51.65 degrees
256.4 kilometers
304.5 kilometers
2.00 m/s
29.3 seconds
89.96 minutes
51.64 degrees
261.3 kilometers
303.5 kilometers

*July 4

At the time of the rendezvous between the cargo ship and the station on July 5, the ISS was circling the Earth in a 402.85 by 426.87-kilometer orbit. The Progress began an autonomous approach toward the outpost at 07:51:02 Moscow Time (12:51 a.m. EDT). Upon reaching the vicinity of the station at 09:51:20 Moscow Time (02:51 EDT), the cargo ship conducted a flyaround of the outpost, then spent few minutes in a station-keeping position before initiating its final approach.

Progress M-28M docked at the Earth-facing port of the Pirs Docking Compartment, SO1, a part of the Russian segment of the International Space Station, ISS, on July 5, 2015, at 10:11 Moscow Time (3:11 a.m. EDT), just two minutes ahead of the scheduled time at 10:13:02 Moscow Time. At the time, two spacecraft were flying over the South Pacific, southeast of New Zealand, out of range of Russian ground control stations, which required maintaining communications with ground control via US data relay satellites.

The Progress M-28M is scheduled to remain at the ISS for four months.



Orbit correction

On Sept. 7, 2015, at 07:25 Moscow Time, the propulsion system onboard Progress M-28M was used to adjust the ISS orbit, to form the necessary parameters for the departure and landing of the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft on Sept. 12, 2015.

The 538-second maneuver added 0.55 meters per second to the outpost and increased its altitude by 950 meters, bringing the average altitude to 401.9 kilometers.

According to the Russian mission control, the station entered a 401.8 by 419.3-kilometers orbit with an inclination 51.665 degrees toward the Equator. The orbit period reached 92.541 minutes.

According to Roskosmos, during the mission of Progress M-28M, its engines were used for three routine orbit corrections of the ISS and for one unscheduled maneuver to avoid space junk.

End of mission

Progress M-28M undocked from ISS' Pirs Docking Compartment on December 19, 2015, at 10:35 Moscow Time (2:35 a.m. EST). The deorbiting maneuver was initiated at 13:42 Moscow Time (5:42 a.m. EST) with the vehicle's surviving debris predicted to fall into the Pacific Ocean at 14:28 Moscow Time (6:28 a.m. EST).


Cargo onboard Progress M-28M:

Total spacecraft liftoff mass
7,282 kilograms
Propellant for the integrated propulsion system, KDU
880 kilograms
Propellant in the refueling tanks
520 kilograms
Compressed air in the Oxygen Supply System, SrPK
22 kilograms
Compressed oxygen in the Oxygen Supply System, SrPK
26 kilograms
Water in the Rodnik system
420 kilograms
Total mass of supplies in the pressurized cargo compartment, including...
1,393 kilograms

Gas Content System, SOGs (CO2 filters, sampler kit, vacuum valves)

12 kilograms

Water Supply System, SVO (BK BKV bottles, BKO filtering set, hoses)

38 kilograms

Sanitary and Hygiene Supplies, SGO (toilet filters, water containers, EDV indicator, preservatives, solid waste containers)

273 kilograms

Medical Supplies, SMO (underwear, medical check up hardware, personal hygiene items, anti-weightlessness supplies, medical, first aid, air monitoring and cleaning supplies)

137 kilograms

Food Provisions, SOP, (food containers, fresh food items, napkins, garbage bags, rubber rings)

430 kilograms

Thermal Control System, SOTR (replaceable cartridges, dust filters, fan)

10 kilograms

Onboard Equipment Control System, SUBA (HDD-disk, cables, commutation box BSK-25V)

6 kilograms

Onboard information and telemetry system, BITS2-12 (cable)

1 kilogram

Power supply system, SEP (PTAB-1M battery current converter, 800A battery, RT-50-1M current controller)

105 kilograms

MBRL antenna (WALL attachments)

3 kilograms

Servicing and Repair System, STOR (container bags, container, Makkita power drill, cleaning cartridge and cassettes, power components)

30 kilograms

Means of Crew Support, KSPE (TZK jacket, onboard documentation, personal packages for the crew, AA batteries, hard drive, cables, chargers, PN-28-120 power converter, hard disk enclosure, EPAS 40th anniversary package, FLSh VDV package)

44 kilograms

Instrument payloads, KTsN (Microbe control set, experiments: Morse, Korrektsiya, Neiroimmunitet, Pilot-T, Regeneratsiya-1, Aseptik, Kaskad, Biodegradatsiya, Test, Polymer sample package)

21 kilograms

Means of Technical Servicing and Repair, KS TOR (cable cover, soft railing)

3 kilograms

Hardware for FGB module (memory device, test-tubes, OSP-4 fire extinguisher)

39 kilograms

American cargo for Russian crew members (food items, cloth, hygiene items, crew personal items)

186 kilograms

US cargo (preservative containers, water and preservative distributor, urine hose and filter, Russian items for US crew members, Russian food items, European hardware)

55 kilograms

A total mass of deliverable supplies

2,381 kilograms


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The article and photography by Anatoly Zak

Last update: February 17, 2023

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Progress M-28M is being prepared for vacuum testing. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


Progress M-28M (right) during pre-launch processing on June 23, 2015, next to a Soyuz spacecraft. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia


Click to enlarge. Credit: TsENKI


Progress M-28M is integrated with its launch vehicle adapter on June 25, 2015. Click to enlarge. Credit: TsENKI


Progress M-28M is being integrated with its protective fairing on June 25, 2015. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


Progress M-28M and its upper stage are integrated with the rest of the Soyuz-U launch vehicle on June 30, 2015. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia


Progress M-28M leaves the assembly building on July 1, 2015. Click to enlarge. Credit: TsENKI


Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos


Soyuz-U rocket lifts off with Progress M-28M on July 3, 2015. Credit: Roskosmos

Planned configuration of the ISS after the arrival of Progress M-28M (mislabeled by NASA as Progress 60) on July 5, 2015. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA

The ISS as seen by a TV camera onboard Progress M-28M spacecraft during its rendezvous and docking at the outpost on July 5, 2015. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA

At the time of docking, two spacecraft (left) were flying over the South Pacific, southeast of New Zealand, out of range of Russian ground control stations, which required maintaining communications with ground control via US data relay satellites. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA