The Russian Progress MS-16 spacecraft has reached the International Space Station

Progress MS-16 spacecraft approaching the International Space Station (Image courtesy Roscosmos)
Progress MS-16 spacecraft approaching the International Space Station (Image courtesy Roscosmos)

A few hours ago the Progress MS-16 spacecraft docked with the International Space Station in the mission also referred to as Progress 77 or 77P. The Russian cargo spacecraft, which blasted off last Sunday, February 14, carries food, water, scientific experiments, fuel, and various hardware.

The Progress MS-16 cargo spacecraft docked with the International Space Station’s Russian Pirs module, but human intervention was required. The automatic system that allows Russian spacecraft to dock directly suffered from a communication problem with the Station, so cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov, who was supervising the maneuver, took over and drove the freighter to its docking. It’s the second consecutive mission of the Progress space freighters to have some docking problems. Today, the crew will probably proceed with the hatch opening and the procedures to make the Progress MS-16 an appendage to the Station.

The first mission of the Progress MS-16 spacecraft is accomplished. In fact, it can’t return to Earth, so it will be filled with hardware that’s faulty or have become unusable for some reasons and assorted garbage, and will disintegrate coming back to the Earth’s atmosphere.

Unlike what normally happens, this Progress is supposed to carry the entire Pirs module with it departing the International Space Station, probably in June 2021. It was in fact decided to use it to eliminate this old module because finally the new Nauka space laboratory seems ready to the launch, with a delay of several years. It will be connected to the Zvezda mozulo replacing Pirs. At the moment, the launch is scheduled for July 2021, but now the delays are no longer news. This Progress is not the first spacecraft launched with the second mission to eliminate the Pirs module, so we will have to wait for the summer to see if the Russian space agency Roscosmos will finally be able to launch the Nauka laboratory.

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