How Russia's Progress Spaceships Work (Infographic)

An infographic profile of the Progress cargo ship used to service the International Space Station.
(Image credit: Karl Tate/

The Progress resupply vehicle is a robotic, unpiloted spacecraft based on Russia’s Soyuz crew vehicle. The Progress is launched to the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. After more than 140 flights over three decades, the Progress has a near-perfect record of space station support missions, with only two craft failing to reach their destinations as of 2015.

Both the Progress cargo ship and the Soyuz crew-carrying vehicle are launched on booster rockets called Soyuz. The Progress lacks an escape rocket on top because the ship carries no crew.

After removing the cargo, the space station crew fills Progress with up to 3,748 lbs. (1,700 kg) of trash and sends it to burn up in the atmosphere.


June 25, 1997: During a manual docking test commanded from the Mir space station, Progress M-34 goes out of control and collides with the station, causing an air leak in the Spektr module. The crew seals off the depressurizing module and never enters it again.

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Karl Tate contributor

Karl's association with goes back to 2000, when he was hired to produce interactive Flash graphics. From 2010 to 2016, Karl worked as an infographics specialist across all editorial properties of Purch (formerly known as TechMediaNetwork).  Before joining, Karl spent 11 years at the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, creating news graphics for use around the world in newspapers and on the web.  He has a degree in graphic design from Louisiana State University and now works as a freelance graphic designer in New York City.