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Russian Progress cargo ship docks at space station after two-day journey

An uncrewed Russian Progress freighter approaches the International Space Station on July 1, 2021.
An uncrewed Russian Progress freighter approaches the International Space Station on July 1, 2021. (Image credit: NASA TV)

An uncrewed Russian cargo spacecraft has arrived at the International Space Station after a two-day journey to deliver food, fuel and supplies for the orbiting outpost’s crew.

The Progress MS-17 freighter linked up with the Poisk mini research module on the space-facing side of the station’s Russian segment on Thursday (July 1). The automated docking occurred at 8:59 p.m. EDT (0059 GMT on July 2).

Launched on Tuesday (June 29) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Progress MS-17 completed 34 orbits of Earth on its way to the space station. During its rendezvous, the ship was predicted to come within the vicinity of two pieces of SpaceX hardware.

Related: How Russia's Progress cargo ships work (infographic)

"Information shows that a Starlink satellite system spacecraft and a Falcon 9 rocket fragment [are] expected to approach the Progress MS-17 spacecraft on July 1,” Roscosmos, Russia’s state space corporation, stated in a June 30 release

Flight controllers monitored the situation, but no maneuvers were needed to avoid an impact, with the Starlink satellite expected to fly by at a distance of about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) and the rocket fragment passing at about 1,600 feet (500 meters). The two encounters occurred about three minutes apart.

Packed aboard Progress MS-17 is more than 3,600 lbs. (1,630 kilograms) of supplies for the space station’s Expedition 65 crew, including commander Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and flight engineers Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos. 

Among the cargo to be unpacked are Russian science experiments designed to develop countermeasures for osseous (bone) lesions and to study the impact of long-duration space missions on cosmonauts’ activities. There is also research into pharmaceuticals to modulate the human immune system and hardware to map the global structure of space weather and meteorological processes from orbit.

Progress MS-17 will spend almost five months docked to Poisk at the station. The cargo craft is then scheduled to perform an automated undocking and relocation to the new "Nauka" multipurpose laboratory module in late October. Named for the Russian word for "science," Nauka is slated to be launched to the space station this summer.

After changing ports and being repacked with refuse from the space station, Progress MS-17 will undock in November to re-enter Earth's atmosphere for its safe destruction. 

Progress MS-17 is the 78th Russian cargo craft to launch to the International Space Station since August 2000.

Robert Pearlman is a Space.com contributing writer and the editor of collectSPACE.com, a Space.com partner site and the leading space history news publication. Follow collectSPACE on Facebook and on Twitter at @collectSPACE. Follow us @Spacedotcom and Facebook.

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Robert Pearlman is a journalist and space historian.


His original "Ask An Astronaut" website preceded NASA's efforts to connect the public with the men and women who have flown in space. Later, as the online program director for the National Space Society, Pearlman led the redesign and expansion of the organization's online resources and website, including authoring the educational viewer's guide for Tom Hanks' award-winning HBO miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon."


In 1997, Pearlman was recruited by Buzz Aldrin to develop the Apollo astronaut's first website. And in 1999, Pearlman co-founded the astronaut-endorsed Starport.com, which subsequently was acquired by Space.com. Pearlman was then hired by Space.com to manage the site's community projects.


Between 1998 and 2003, Pearlman was the on-air, online host for the National Space Day live webcast filmed at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.


In 1996, Pearlman was hired by space tourism firm Space Adventures as its first marketing and publicity director.


Today, Pearlman is the editor of collectSPACE.


Pearlman is a contributing writer for Space.com, serves on the leadership board for For All Moonkind, he is a member of the American Astronautical Society's history committee, and serves as an advisor for The Mars Generation.


He is the co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space," published on Oct. 30, 2018 by Smithsonian Books.


He served as technical consultant on the 2013 movie "Space Warriors" with Mira Sorvino and Danny Glover and the 2018 Damien Chazelle film "First Man" with Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy. He served as historical consultant on the 2019 Todd Douglas Miller documentary "Apollo 11."


Pearlman has also appeared as a commentator on:

  • Strange Inheritance (Fox Business Network)
  • American Restoration (History Channel)
  • American Pickers (History Channel)
  • Mysteries at the Museum (Travel Channel)
  • Brad Meltzer's Lost History (H2)
  • Ancient Aliens (History Channel)
  • NASA's Unexplained Files (Science Channel)

Pearlman previously served on the boards of the National Space Society and U.S. Space Walk of Fame Foundation. He is also a former national chair for the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.


In 2001, his work on collectSPACE earned Pearlman the Collector of the Year Award from the Universal Autograph Collectors Club (UACC).


In 2009, Pearlman was inducted into the Space Camp Hall of Fame.