Russian cargo spacecraft ends mission with fiery return to Earth

Russia's robotic Progress 80 cargo spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for docking on Feb. 17, 2022.
Russia's robotic Progress 80 cargo spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for docking on Feb. 17, 2022. (Image credit: NASA TV)

A Russian cargo ship ended its eight-month orbital stay with an intentional death dive into Earth's atmosphere on Sunday night (Oct. 23).

The uncrewed Progress 80 freighter, which brought more than 3 tons of food and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) in February, undocked from the orbiting lab at 6:46 p.m. EDT (2246 GMT) on Sunday.

"The spacecraft backed away from the space station, and a few hours later, Progress' engines fired in a deorbit maneuver to send the cargo craft into a destructive re-entry in the Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean," NASA officials wrote in an update on Monday (Oct. 24).

Related: How Russia's Progress spaceships work (infographic) 

Progress is one of three robotic spacecraft that regularly ferry supplies to the ISS, along with SpaceX's Dragon capsule and Northrop Grumman's Cygnus vehicle. Progress and Cygnus burn up in Earth's atmosphere when their orbital work is done, while Dragon comes home for safe splashdowns and future reuse.

Three visiting spacecraft remain attached to the ISS after Progress 80's departure — the Progress 81 freighter, a Russian Soyuz and the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Endurance. 

These latter two vehicles are astronaut taxis, and both lifted off relatively recently. The Soyuz launched on Sept. 21 and Endurance followed suit on Oct. 5, flying on SpaceX's Crew-5 mission for NASA.

Another Russian freighter will lift off soon to take the place of the recently departed Progress 80. The uncrewed Progress 82 spacecraft is scheduled to launch atop a Soyuz rocket Tuesday (Oct. 25) at 8:20 p.m. EDT (0020 GMT on Oct. 26).

If all goes according to plan, Progress 82 will arrive at the ISS on Thursday (Oct. 27) at 10:49 p.m. EDT (0249 GMT on Oct. 28). You can watch the launch and docking live here at, courtesy of NASA TV.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.  

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.