January 18, 2020

Soyuz rocket set to launch Russian Progress freighter to space station


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A Soyuz-2.1a booster is set to launch the Russian Progress MS-13 cargo freighter Friday to the International Space Station. Credit: Roscosmos

A Russian resupply and refueling freighter loaded with 2.7 tons of cargo, propellant, water and oxygen for the International Space Station is in position on a launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for liftoff Friday aboard a Soyuz booster.

The three-stage rocket rolled out to Launch Pad No. 31 at Baikonur Tuesday, riding a rail car at dawn from the Soyuz booster’s assembly building, or MIK. Once at the pad, the Soyuz was lifted vertical by hydraulic lifts and suspended over a cavernous flame bucket carved from the bedrock of the Kazakh steppe.

Gantry arms were raised into position around the Soyuz-2.1a launcher to give Russian technicians access to the rocket for final checkouts and inspections.

The Soyuz will be loaded with kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants during a countdown Friday, setting the stage for ignition of rocket’s core stage engine and four liquid-fueled strap-on boosters. Liftoff is timed for 4:34:11 a.m. EST (0934:11 GMT; 2:34:11 p.m. Baikonur time) to begin the 74th Russian Progress resupply mission to the International Space Station.

The RD-107A engines on the Soyuz rocket’s four first stage boosters will shut down and jettison around two minutes after liftoff, while a four-nozzle RD-108A engine on the core stage continues firing. A protective aerodynamic shroud will then fall away from the top of the rocket to reveal the Progress MS-13 spacecraft.

The core stage will shut down and separate nearly five minutes after liftoff, giving way to an RD-0110 engine on the Soyuz third stage to inject the Progress freighter into orbit. Separation of the Progress cargo craft from the Soyuz third stage is scheduled nearly nine minutes into the mission.

Moments after separation, the Progress will unfurl its two power-generating solar array wings and navigation antennas. Russian ground controllers will oversee a sequence of thruster burns to align the cargo ship’s orbit with that of the space station, positioning the Progress freighter for docking with the Pirs module on the orbiting research lab Monday at 5:38 a.m. EST (1038 GMT).

The Progress cargo freighter’s docking at the station is scheduled a day after the planned arrival of a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule, giving the station’s six-person crew back-to-back shipments of fresh supplies and experiments.

Russian cosmonauts will unpack some 3,000 pounds (1,350 kilograms) of dry cargo stowed inside the Progress MS-13 spacecraft’s pressurized compartment. The mission will also deliver 1,433 pounds (650 kilograms) of propellant to refuel the propulsion system on the station’s Russian segment, along with 926 pounds (420 kilograms) of water and 110 pounds (50 kilograms) of oxygen.

The gear to be delivered to the station by the Progress MS-13 spacecraft includes a new track for a treadmill used by cosmonauts for exercise.

The Russian resupply vessel is slated to depart the space station next July with a load of trash to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.

Additional photos of the Soyuz rocket’s rollout Tuesday at Baikonur are posted below.

Credit: Roscosmos
Credit: Roscosmos
Credit: Roscosmos
Credit: Roscosmos
Credit: Roscosmos
Credit: Roscosmos
Credit: Roscosmos
Credit: Roscosmos
Credit: Roscosmos
Credit: Roscosmos
Credit: Roscosmos
Credit: Roscosmos
Credit: Roscosmos
Credit: Roscosmos
Credit: Roscosmos
Credit: Roscosmos

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.


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