Progress MS-23 re-supplies ISS
The second Progress cargo ship of 2023 lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on May 24, 2023. The vehicle docked at the International Space Station less than 3.5 hours later.
Progress MS-23 mission at a glance:
Progress MS-23 mission
According to Roskosmos, the Progress MS-23 spacecraft was expected to carry around 2,491 kilograms of cargo to the station, including 499 kilograms of propellant for refueling the station, 40 kilogram of pressurized gases, 630 kilograms of drinking water in the tanks of the Rodnik system and 210 kilograms of water in the add-on tank of the pressurized cargo section. The same compartment would also contain 1,322 kilograms of supplies and science payloads (INSIDER CONTENT) for Expedition 69 aboard the ISS.
Supplies included materials for the following experiments: Aseptik, Pilot-T, Splankh, Separatsiya, Vampir, Vzaimodeistvie-2, Korrektsiya, the Uragan video-spectral system and Glavboks-S unit.
Progress MS-23 was also reported carrying the launching container with a one-kilogram Parus-MGTU nano-satellite developed at Bauman Technical University in Moscow. It was designed to separate from the main spacecraft and deploy a solar sail as a technology test. The sail has two ribbon-like sections with a length of five meters. The deployment process was expected to be photographed.
According to Roskosmos, the spacecraft carried the URM-D standard work site intended for the installation on the exterior of the Nauka module, MLM. Some NASA cargo was also reported to be onboard.
As usual, Progress MS-23 was available for ISS orbit correction and garbage disposal at the end of its mission.
Progress MS-23 launch campaign
As of 2014, two Progress missions were penciled for April 16, and July 1, 2023. By 2022, only one cargo flight was planned in the Summer of 2023.
Progress MS-23 was shipped from its production plant in Korolev to Baikonur on June 29, 2022. It reached the launch site on July 4, 2022.
On Feb. 1, 2023, Roskosmos announced that two Soyuz-2-1a rockets for launching Progress MS-23 and Soyuz MS-24 spacecraft had been shipped from the manufacturing site at RKTs Progress in Samara to the Baikonur launch site.
The launch campaign for the Progress MS-23 mission officially started in the processing building at Site 254 on March 17 with the inspection of the spacecraft and preparation for its electrical checks, Roskosmos said.
In the last week of March, specialists from RKK Energia completed checks of the Motion Control and Navigation System, SUDN, aboard the spacecraft, tested operation of the gas supply, thermal control, refueling and water-supply systems, as well as avionics of the power-supply and propulsion systems (INSIDER CONTENT). In parallel, the team worked on the preparations of the Soyuz MS-24 spacecraft for launch on Sept. 15, 2023.
The testing of the spacecraft in the anechoic chamber was completed on April 10, 2023. Between April 14 and April 19, specialists conducted a series of pneumatic and vacuum tests in the vacuum chamber at Site 254. On April 29, the processing team completed testing of the ship's solar arrays.
During the first week of May 2023, RKK Energia team completed testing of equipment aboard the cargo ship, check the seal of the docking mechanism, filled tanks of the Rodnik system with water and began loading deliverable items into the cargo section of the vehicle.
The meeting of the technical management on May 10 cleared Progress MS-23 for fueling. Before its transfer to the fueling facility, the spacecraft underwent weighting and balancing at Site 254. The fueling operations were conducted on May 11 In parallel, at Site 31 specialists integrated boosters of the first and second stages of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket assigned to launch the cargo mission.
On May 13, 2023, Progress MS-23 was returned to the spacecraft processing building for final processing. Following the assembly of the payload section on May 17, it was delivered to the vehicle processing building at Site 31, where the final integration with the Soyuz-2-1a rocket was completed on May 19, 2023. The launch vehicle was rolled out to the launch pad on the morning of May 21.
Progress MS-23 flight profile
A Soyuz-2-1a rocket, carrying the Progress MS-23 cargo ship lifted off from Pad 6 at Site 31 in Baikonur on May 24, 2023, at 15:56:07.463 Moscow Time (8:56 a.m. EDT).
Following a 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 should separated one minute 58 seconds after liftoff (at 15:58:05 Moscow Time), at an altitude of around 43 kilometers, followed by the split and drop of the two halves of the payload fairing slightly more than a minute later (at 15:59:10 Moscow Time), at an altitude of around 90 kilometers, just above the dense atmosphere and around 200 kilometers downrange. In the meantime, the second stage continued firing until 4 minutes and 47 seconds into the flight (16:00:54 Moscow Time), bringing the vehicle to around 143 kilometers above the planet and a speed of around four kilometers per second, some 500 kilometers downrange from the launch site.
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 third stage continued firing until L+525.74 seconds in flight and inserted the cargo ship into an initial parking orbit eight minutes 49 seconds after liftoff at an altitude of around 193 kilometers. The separation of the spacecraft from the launch vehicle took place at 16:04:55 Moscow Time.
Immediately after the orbital insertion, the Russian mission control in Korolev reported following successful deployment of solar panels and antennas aboard the cargo ship:
Rendezvous and docking operations
At the time when the Progress MS-23 reached orbit, the ISS was flying over Mongolia, ahead of the cargo ship in the 412.550 by 435.180-kilometer orbit.
According to the initial flight program, Progress MS-23 was scheduled to dock at the station at 19:20 Moscow Time on the day of the launch after a two-orbit autonomous flight.
The autonomous rendezvous process between Progress MS-22 and the ISS was planned according to the following timeline:
In the unlikely event of problems with the automated rendezvous system aboard Progress, Russian cosmonauts aboard the ISS activated and tested the TORU manual control system in a stand-by mode at around 18:45 Moscow Time.
The spacecraft started a routine flyaround of the station from nadir to zenith at around 06:54 Moscow Time from a distance of around 350 meters from the ISS. The move aligned the cargo ship with its destination docking port on the Poisk module, MIM2, at around 19:04 Moscow Time and a distance of 192 meters from the ISS. At that point, the spacecraft performed a roll maneuver for the correct orientation relative to the station and then switched to a station keeping at 19:05 Moscow Time at a distance of around 200 meters. The roll maneuver was completed at 19:06 Moscow Time at a distance of 184 meters.
The final approach was initiated at around 19:08 Moscow Time from a distance of around 180 meters. The vehicle successfully docked at the ISS at 19:18:43 Moscow Time, as the two vehicles were flying over China, around two minutes ahead of schedule.
The Russian mission control in Korolev reported the following timeline for the docking milestones:
The spacecraft is expected to remain at the station until the end of November 2023.
Progress MS-23 in spacecraft processing building at Site 254 in mid-May 2023. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
Progress MS-23 is rolled inside its launch vehicle payload fairing. Click to enlarge. Credit: RKK Energia
Two halves of the payload fairing separating from the Soyuz-2-1a rocket during the launch of Progress MS-23 spacecraft as seen by onboard cameras. Credit: Roskosmos
The third stage of the Soyuz-2-1a rocket separates from the Progress MS-23 spacecraft as seen by an onboard camera. Credit: Roskosmos
Progress MS-23 approaches the ISS on May 24, 2023. Credit: NASA