The Russian spacecraft Progress MS-12 has reached the International Space Station

The Progress MS-12 cargo spacecraft approaching the International Space Station (Image NASA TV)
The Progress MS-12 cargo spacecraft approaching the International Space Station (Image NASA TV)

A few hours ago the Progress MS-12 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 73 or 73P. 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-12 cargo spacecraft is carrying a total of about 2,450 kilograms (about 4,800 lbs) of various types of supply including food, water, air, oxygen, 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-12 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 December but the exact date depends on various factors.

This is the third mission for the Progress cargo spaceships using the ultra-fast track but it will be tested again several times with the next resupply missions with the final aim to use it with the Soyuz manned spacecraft to transport people to the International Space Station as quickly as possible. The next step for the Soyuz spacecraft, scheduled for the end of August, will be the launch on the Soyuz 2.1a rocket of the unmanned Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft to test the launch on that version of the rocket. Modifications to the launch abort system were needed for its integration into the Soyuz 2.1a.

The Progress MS-12 cargo spacecraft launching atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket (Image courtesy Roscosmos)
The Progress MS-12 cargo spacecraft launching atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket (Image courtesy Roscosmos)

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