A little while ago the Progress M-28M spacecraft docked to the International Space Station. The Russian space cargo ship, launched last Friday, is carrying food and water that ensure a reserve of about another month to the crew as well as scientific experiments, propellant and various hardware. For the nations cooperating in running the Station it’s certainly a relief after three mishaps in less than a year, so much as to be defined Christmas in July.
In recent years we’ve got used to seeing the American Dragon and Cygnus spacecraft dock to the International Space Station in two phases. They in fact arrive at a close distance to be captured by the Canadarm2 robotic arm, which is used to transport them to a hatch where it’s berthed completing the docking procedures. Instead, the Progress cargo spacecraft docks directly.
The Progress M-28M spacecraft uses an automatic docking system called Kurs, developed back in the times of the USSR. It allows the Station and the spacecraft to calculate in every moment of the maneuver their relative positions, the alignment and the approach speed. In an emergency, the Station crew can take manual control of the spacecraft.
The Progress M-28M cargo spacecraft regularly docked with the Russian Pirs module of the International Space Station. Tomorrow the crew will proceed with the opening of the hatch and the procedures to make the Progress M-28M an appendix of the Station. At that point, they’ll start the unloading operations, which should continue for the whole week.
The mission of the Progress M-28M spacecraft, also referred to as Progress 60, is basically accomplished. In fact, it can’t return to Earth so it will be filled with hardware that’s faulty or anyway has become unusable and assorted junk and will be be sent to disintegrate reentering into the atmosphere. This mission epilogue will take place in about four months.
Now the nations that run the International Space Station can evaluate more calmly the future plans to replace various experiments and hardware that got destroyed in the mishaps. In August the launch of a Japanese cargo spacecraft is scheduled and it’s possible that the first replacements might be launched.
All this waiting to see when the Cygnus cargo spacecraft will be launched again and the investigation on the Falcon 9 rocket mishap that led to the destruction of the Dragon. It’s in these difficult moments that we should really see the spirit of collaboration and the ingenuity of the Station’s partners. Ad astra per aspera.