Space Rendezvous: Progress 86’s Critical Cargo Arrives at the International Space Station

Progress 86 Cargo Craft Approaches Space Station

The Progress 86 cargo craft approaches the International Space Station’s Poisk module ahead of its docking at 6:18 a.m. EST. Credit: NASA

The Roscosmos Progress 86 spacecraft, launched from Kazakhstan, successfully docked with the ISS on December 3, 2023, delivering nearly three tons of supplies for the Expedition 70 crew.

An uncrewed Roscosmos Progress 86 spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station’s Poisk module at 6:18 a.m. EST on December 3, 2023. The spacecraft launched on a Soyuz rocket at 4:25 a.m. EST Friday, December 1 (2:25 p.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko manually docked the spacecraft to the orbital complex after the automated rendezvous system took Progress out of its expected orientation.

Progress is delivering almost three tons of food, fuel, and supplies to the International Space Station for the Expedition 70 crew.

ISS Configuration December 3, 2023

International Space Station Configuration on December 3, 2023. Six spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft, the SpaceX Dragon Endurance crew spacecraft, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter, the Soyuz MS-24 crew ship, and the Progress 85 and 86 resupply ships. Credit: NASA

Roscosmos’ Progress spacecraft is a series of uncrewed cargo spacecraft, a pivotal component of Russia’s space program. Designed for resupply missions to space stations, these spacecraft have evolved through several variants since their inception in the 1970s. The technical aspects of these spacecraft are notable for their efficiency and reliability in space logistics.

Progress spacecraft are based on the Soyuz spacecraft design but are modified for cargo transportation. They typically have a pressurized cargo area for scientific equipment, food, and other supplies, along with an unpressurized section for fuel and water. The total cargo capacity varies depending on the model but generally falls around 2,500 to 3,000 kilograms.

Over the years, Progress spacecraft have seen several upgrades. The latest in the series, the Progress MS variant, features improved solar panels, enhanced thrusters, a modernized communication system, and upgraded safety features. These improvements enhance the spacecraft’s performance and reliability.

Progress spacecraft have been instrumental in supporting continuous human presence in space, especially for the International Space Station. By delivering essential supplies and equipment, they play a crucial role in maintaining the operation and habitation of space stations.

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