Progress MS-22 arrives at ISS, MS-21 develops coolant loop leak

by Sawyer Rosenstein

Roscosmos’ latest Progress resupply craft has docked at the International Space Station (ISS). Liftoff of the Progress MS-22 mission occurred at 06:15 UTC on Feb. 9 from Site 31/6 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz-2.1a rocket, docking two days later on Feb. 11 at 08:45 UTC.

After the successful docking, Roscosmos engineers detected a depressurization in the coolant loop of the Progress MS-21 spacecraft, which has been docked at the Station since October 2022. This is the same system that leaked on the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft in December, believed to be the result of a micrometeorite strike. NASA confirmed that the crew of the ISS is in no danger and that the cause of the leak is under investigation.

Progress MS-22/83P

Onboard the Progress MS-22 spacecraft is nearly 2,500 kg of cargo. This particular resupply vehicle includes, according to Roscosmos, 709 kg of propellant located in special tanks for refueling, 420 kg of water, 40 kg of pressurized nitrogen, and more than 1,300 kg of materials for the Expedition 68 crew currently aboard the ISS. That includes personal materials like clothes, food, and more; this is located inside the pressurized section of the vehicle.

Although the mission is officially designated MS-22 by Roscosmos, NASA refers to the mission as Progress-83P. That’s because this is the 22nd flight of the MS variant of the Progress vehicle, but also the 83rd such cargo delivery to the ISS.

The Progress MS-21 vehicle docked to the Poisk module on the ISS. (Credit: NASA)

The Progress MS-21 vehicle is currently at the station after launch on Oct. 26, docked to the Poisk module. Meanwhile, the Progress MS-20 vehicle undocked on Feb. 7, filled with trash and other waste items to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. That cleared the docking port that the Progress MS-22 vehicle will use.

Progress Launch Preparations

Roscosmos had discussed delaying the Progress MS-22 mission after the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft encountered a coolant leak following a micrometeoroid strike back on Dec. 14. Instead, the agency is pushing ahead with this mission and plan to launch an uncrewed Soyuz following this mission which will be used to bring that crew home.

This spacecraft arrived by rail at Baikonur on March 1, 2022, and was moved to the processing building at Site 254. According to RSC Energia, preparations on the vehicle began on Oct. 28, beginning with inspections and system activations before undergoing vacuum testing and digital flight control system testing in November.

Meanwhile, the Soyuz-2.1a rocket arrived for processing at Site 112 in August. Uniquely, this vehicle was raised in December at Pad 6 located at Site 31 (31/6) for integration testing with new equipment installed at the launch site. In a statement from Roscosmos, the new system, built within Russia, will be used to conduct electrical tests of onboard systems ahead of liftoff, replacing older and outdated equipment.

The Progress vehicle was loaded with its propellant and pressurized gasses on Jan. 25.

The Progress MS-22 solar arrays undergo testing ahead of launch. Credit: RKK Energia)

Integration of the rocket and spacecraft was completed on Feb. 1, while also conducting final tests of onboard command and telemetry systems. This included a final visual inspection before the vehicle was encapsulated inside a protective four-meter payload fairing.

The newly mated Progress vehicle and Soyuz-2.1a rocket were rolled out to 31/6 on Feb. 6, where they were then raised vertical ahead of liftoff.

The Launch Vehicle

The Soyuz-2.1a rocket consists of three stages. The first is four side-mounted boosters. They use RD-107A engines burning RP-1 kerosene and liquid oxygen (LOX). They’re also equipped with two Vernier engines each for control.

Roscosmos calls the main core the second stage, using RP-1 and LOX to fuel the four combustion chambers on the single RD-108A engine. Also using RP-1 and LOX, the RD-0110 engine aboard stage three ignites before the second stage has separated in a process known as “hot staging.”

The fairing containing Progress MS-22 is mated to the Soyuz-2.1a rocket. (Credit: RSC Energia)

Before launch, the Soyuz-2.1a rocket is loaded with fuel and oxidizer and the two large gantry towers are lowered to the launch position.

Launch Profile

After engine ignition, the engines on the first and second stages spool up to full thrust and the Soyuz-2.1a rocket lifts off from Site 31/6. The vehicle then rolls to a launch azimuth aligned with the ISS’s orbital inclination of 51.6 degrees.

Later, the first stage boosters separate in a formation known as the “Korolev Cross,” which is named after Sergei Korolev, one of the early pioneers of Soviet rocketry. That leaves the second stage to continue the ascent.

Soyuz-2.1a’s first stage separates, forming the Korolev Cross, during the launch of Soyuz MS-18 in April 2021. (Credit: NASA)

As the second stage tank nears empty, the hot staging begins, followed by the separation of the second stage as the third stage is already burning.

The third stage then separates, placing the Progress MS-22 spacecraft into its parking orbit.

Following the launch, the spacecraft will take two days to rendezvous with the ISS, longer than the current crew rendezvous procedure which has been completed in as little as three hours.

The vehicle docked autonomously to the aft docking adapter on the Zvezda service module on the Russian segment of the ISS on Saturday. Upon completion of its mission, the vehicle will be loaded with trash and other unwanted items from the station to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.

(Lead photo: Progress MS-22 arriving for docking – via Roscosmos)

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