How Russia's Progress Spaceships Work (Infographic)
An infographic profile of the Progress cargo ship used to service the International Space Station.
Credit: Karl Tate, Contributor

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.
Aug. 24, 2011: Progress M-12M, carrying three tons of supplies bound for the ISS, is destroyed when a blocked fuel line causes the booster engines to shut down after less than 6 minutes of flight. The vehicle fails to reach orbit and crashes back to Earth.
April 28, 2015: Progress 59 goes out of control after a mishap during ascent through Earth’s atmosphere. Russian mission controllers declare that the craft, rotating once every 5 seconds, cannot be sent to the space station. The damaged craft is expected to fall out of orbit and burn up within two weeks after launch.


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