A few hours ago the Progress MS-15 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 76 or 76P. After almost 3.5 hours it reached the International Space Station docking with its Pirs module. There was a moment of uncertainty because the cargo freighter was berthing with a misalignment, but the problem was quickly resolved.
Berthing maneuvers are monitored from the International Space Station as well, and cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin was ready to take manual control of the Progress MS-15 spacecraft. When he noticed the misalignment from the berthing target, he had a brief exchange with the mission control center in Moscow. He was told that the data was nominal and to do nothing. Eventually, the Progress MS-15’s berthing to the Station realigned the cargo spacecraft perfecting it.
In essence, the Progress MS-15 cargo spacecraft regularly docked with the International Space Station’s Russian Pirs module using the automatic system that allows Russian spacecraft a direct berthing. During the week the crew will proceed with the opening of the hatch and the procedures to make the Progress MS-15 an appendix of the Station.
The Progress MS-15 cargo spacecraft is carrying a total of about 2,600 kilograms 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. In the next hours, the Station’s crew is scheduled to open the hatch and start unloading the cargo.
The mission of the Progress MS-15 spacecraft is 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 2020, however, the intention of the Russian space agency Roscosmos is to detach the entire Pirs module from the Station to eliminate that too. This is part of the Russian plans to launch the new Nauka space laboratory after e delay of several years. At the end of 2020 we’ll see if, at last, Roscosmos will be able to proceed with this plan.