Progress 46 (M-14M) departs from Baikonur Cosmodrome

The latest unmanned Progress cargo ship (M-14M or 46 depending on your chosen designation), has successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on its 2 day journey to the International Space Station (ISS).

The launch, atop a Soyuz-U rocket, was from Site 1/5 at Baikonur, and took place from the same launch pad that launched Yuri Gagarin into space back in 1961.

Final launch preparations started on Tuesday morning, after sunrise, when the Progress craft was taken, as is customary, by rail, lying horizontally on the rail car,from the processing hanger at the Baikonur cosmodrome.

Progress M-14M on rail car prior to launch
Progress M-14M on rail car prior to launch Credit: RIA Novosti

It was then hydraulically lift into a vertical position, and the launch platform was inclined to the proper angle for launch.

Progress 14-M waits on the pad
Progress 14-M waits on the pad Credit: Roscosmos

It was very cold at the launch site with temperatures of around 5 degrees farenheit being recorded.

The launch of the latest Progress vehicle is the culmination of a series of carefully choreographed steps. These started on Tuesday with the undocking, from the PIRS docking module, on the Russian segment of the space station, of the previous Progress resupply ship.

Progress M-13M undocks from the PIRS docking compartment
Progress M-13M undocks from the PIRS docking compartment

After undocking from the ISS, the Progress craft was positioned in a higher orbit to deply the CHIBIS-M micro satellite. (For more details of the CHIBIS-M mission, click HERE. After successfully deploying the micro satellite, Russian controllers fired the engines for the Progress vehicle to burn up in the upper atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.

The Progress M-14M craft contains almost 2.5 tonnes of supplies for the personnel aboard the ISS. The craft contains:

Main flight components (total weight – 1,259 kg) consisting of:

Item Weight
Fuel in the tanks refueling system 539 kg
Gas in cylinders of oxygen 50 kg
Water 420 kg
Fuel in the tanks of the DCD for use on the ISS 250 kg

Cargo delivered in a sealed compartment (total mass – 1,410 kg) consisting of:

Item Weight
Equipment for life support (GM) 6 kg
Equipment for water supply (WAS) 107 kg
Equipment to ensure the thermal regime (Comp) 40 kg
Command and control equipment “Regulus-OS” 36Kg
TV (TVS) 8 kg
Traffic control and navigation (ship), telephone and telegraph communications (STTS), control onboard equipment (Suba) 2 kg
Means maintenance and repair (STORA) 3 kg
Funds sanitary services (SSGO) 156 kg
fire protection (DPSS) 6 kg
Lighting 17 kg
Funds intermodule ventilation (SMV) 14 kg
containers with food rations, fresh food 304kg
Medical equipment, clothes, personal hygiene, clean air controls and cleaning station 184kg
Equipment FGB “Zarya” 3 kg
Equipment SB-1 “Pirs” 7 kg
Equipment for MIM-1 “Dawn” 24 kg
Equipment for MIM-2 “Search” 5 kg
Equipment for scientific experiments, “Typology”, “Immune,” “Biodegradation”, “Matryoshka-R”, “Endurance”, “Test” 88 kg
Bortdokumentatsiya, parcels for the crew 37 kg
Set items for the Russian crew members 164kg
Equipment for the U.S. segment, including food, sanitation and hygiene facilities to ensure 199kg

The Progress craft, lifted off, flawlessly at 23:06:40 GMT/UTC on Wednesday.

Progress M-14M launches from Baikonur
Progress M-14M launches from Baikonur

Maximum dynamic pressure (or MAX-Q) occurred around 65 seconds into the flight. This is the point at where the pressures on the space ship, from the speed traveled and the density of the atmosphere is at its greatest.

The 4 strap on boosters and first stage were separated as the craft attained 3,500 miles an hour, 2 minutes and 6 seconds after lift off. The first stage is 68 feet in length and 24 feet in diameter and burns liquid fuel.

Most of the recent issues with the Soyuz launchers have revolved around problems with the third stage of the rocket. I imagine therefore, that during this phase, Russian flight engineers were holding their breath. They needn’t have worried, as the stage burned perfectly and confirmation that a successful preliminary orbit had been reached was relayed just over 10 minutes after launch.

Once Progress attained its preliminary orbit, the solar arrays and navigational attenna were successfully deployed. At this point, flight control was passed to the Russian mission control headquaters in Korolov near Moscow.

Russian mission control in Korolev
Russian mission control in Korolev, near Moscow

The Progress now begins a 2 day catch-up to the ISS. 2 rendezvous burns are planned for Tuesday, 1 for Thursday before the final automated rendezvous process starts on Friday.

The Progress vehicle is due to dock at the PIRS module of the ISS at 00:08 GMT/UTC on Saturday morning (04:08 Moscow Time. 19:08 EST on Friday)

At the time of launch, the ISS was orbiting 240 statue miles above the central African country of Chad, moving in a South West to North Easterly direction. The 6 astronauts (a full complement) were asleep during the launch.

After the Progress M-14M craft docks to the ISS, it will remain their until April 24th, when it will make way for the next Progress vehicle.

There are 3 unmanned resupply ships that ferry supplies the ISS. Progress, the Russian craft makes 4 visits a year. ESA provide the Automated Transfer Vehicle, the 3rd of which is due to launch from Kourou on March 9th.

The third resupply vehicle is provided by the Japanese space Agency. It is called the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) and the third one is due to dock with the ISS later in 2012.

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