A few hours ago the Progress MS-11 spacecraft blasted off atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. After about nine minutes it successfully separated from the rocket’s last stage and was placed on its ultra-fast track in its resupply mission to the International Space Station also called Progress 72 or 72P. After almost 3.5 hours it reached the International Space Station docking with its Pirs module.
The Soyuz 2.1a rocket used for other Russian spacecraft missions is now the one used to launch all Progress cargo spacecraft. It allows to insert a spacecraft into an orbit with greater precision than the previous versions of this rocket and that’s why, after the successful July 2018 experiment, the Russian space agency Roscosmos is trying to launch its Progress missions using the ultra-fast track in which the cargo spacecraft completes two orbits for a duration of almost 3.5 hours.
The Progress MS-11 cargo spacecraft is carrying a total of about 3,400 kilograms (almost 7,500 lbs) of various types of supply including food, water, air, oxygen, 1.530 kg (3,375 lbs) of propellant and more such as a series of products for the International Space Station crew, various science experiments, tools and various hardware.
The mission of the Progress MS-11 spacecraft is substantially accomplished. In fact it can’t return to Earth so it will be filled with hardware failed or otherwise become unusable and assorted junk and will disintegrate returning into the Earth’s atmosphere. This mission epilogue will probably take place in late July 2019 but the exact date depends on various factors.
The use of the ultra-fast track will be tested again several times with the next Progress space cargo ships, with the final aim to use it with the Soyuz manned spacecraft to transport people to the International Space Station as quickly as possible. Today’s flight took about 20 minutes less than the July 2018 experiment but the important thing is that it can become normal.