August 2, 2021

Progress MS-17 mission. Collision warning during Russian delivery to the ISS

The launch took place from the Bajkonur cosmodrome, from the stand number 31/6, at 4:27 am local time – June 30 this year. (at 1:27 CEST). The carrier rocket was the Soyuz 2.1a, and the vehicle was the Progress MS-17 unmanned aerial vehicle, with the task of delivering supplies and additional equipment to the International Space Station. An additional context for the implementation of the mission was the 75th anniversary of the OKB-1 design office, the present one RKK Energy, a Russian rocket and spacecraft manufacturing company.

Progress MS-17 took with it a total of almost 3 tons of various types of cargo, almost half of which were, among others, fuel, water and oxygen, while the remaining 1,509 kilograms of supplies are food, clothing, medical supplies, tools, and materials for the following experiments:

  • Neurolab – medical kits from the series Pilot-T, designed to study the impact of long-term space missions on the professional activities of cosmonauts,
  • Correction – the experiment with this name aims to develop effective remedies (“corrective”) against the progressive changes in the skeletal system in the state of weightlessness,
  • Biorisk and Konstanta-2 – experiments examining the effect of spaceflight on blood serum proteins and microorganisms,
  • Probiovit – this experiment is to help in the development of technologies for the production of immunomodulating drugs (stimulating the immune system) in microgravity conditions,
  • UF-Atmosphere – this name is the name of the experiment, which was supplied with the equipment needed for detailed mapping of atmospheric phenomena called anti-glare. It is to help in more accurate monitoring of space weather.

An additional interesting fact is that Progress MS-17 also took with it the symbols of the Chuvai Republic and the image of the cosmonaut Andriyan Nikolaev, who in the Soviet era made space flights, which were record-breaking in terms of the duration of the mission.

Originally, the June mission was to start at the end of March this year, although it was postponed to the last day of last month due to earlier technical problems. Moreover, after the launch, there was also a warning about the risk of being very close (for space travel conditions) to the Starlink 1691 satellite (message about the distance of one and a half kilometers from the Russian mission) and a fragment of the upper segment of the Falcon 9 rocket (possible close-up at a distance of 500 meters).

The response to the potential threat was based on the data of the automated warning system against collision hazards in the near-Earth space (ASPOS OKP – under the control of Roscosmos). The incident occurred three and a half hours before the Progress MS-17 successfully docked to the module Poisk – mooring took place on July 2 this year. at 3:59 Moscow time (2:59 in Poland).

The Russian supply vessel for the current mission will be docked with the ISS for the next six months. In the meantime, a new, long-awaited module is to dock to the Russian part of the orbital station Science, which was scheduled to fly on July 15, 2021. However, the launch has already been postponed by an unknown number of days, as during the installation of the cargo cover (which will later be installed on the Proton-M rocket) it was noticed that not all thermal shields had been attached to a valuable module.

As at the date of publication of this article, four vehicles are moored to the ISS: two Russian – Progress MS-17 and Soyuz MS-18 and two American – Dragon 2 Endeavour from the SpaceX Crew-2 mission and its unmanned supply version SpaceX CRS-22.

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