Progress and Dragon invades ISS !

Two robotic cargo spacecrafts will be launched in following days to support International Space Station with necessary supplies and hardware.

Roscosmos and SpaceX both planned cargo missions to ISS for almost same time. Progress MS-03 will be launched on atop of Soyuz-2.1a on 16th July 2016 from Baikonur Cosmodrome. Launch of this spacecraft (it is 64th Russian cargo flight to ISS) was set on 21:41 GMT from pad 6 at Launch Site 31. American Dragon spacecraft will be launched on 18th July 2016, on atop of Falcon-9 rocket from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral AFS at 04:45 GMT. Just as Progress, Dragon will deliver supplies for crew members, but also will deliver first from two International Docking Adapter (IDA), which will serve in future missions of commercial manned vehicles: Boeing CST-100 and manned version of Dragon spacecraft. It is important mission for SpaceX-last time, on July 28, 2015, Falcon-9 rocket failed and exploded with IDA inside cargo compartment. Mission with IDA onboard was postponed multiple times, but finally it is possible that IDA will be delivered to ISS.

Progress-MS is upgraded and most modern version of Progress. This flight was postponed due the spotted problems with flight control system in Soyuz-MS (which is similar to utilized in Progress, which also relays on same docking computer, Kurs-NA). Originally planned for July 7, 2016, it was moved to 17th July by the decision of Roscosmos. Progress will deliver to ISS 2405 kg of cargo including 1500 kg of propellant, 400 kg of water, 318 kg of food and 135 kg of medicines. Spacecraft will be delivered to parking orbit with inclination at 51.66° (193 km x 245 km) and next it will start flight to Earth facing docking port of Pirs module. Autonomous docking is planned for 00:23 GMT on 19th July 2016. Maneuver will be supervised by Mission Control Center in Korolev and by Alexey Ovchinin and Anatoly Ivanishin remaining inside ISS.

Dragon spacecraft will deliver to International Space Station IDA, supplies, scientific experiments with total weight of 2500 kg. International Docking Adapter, which weighs 526 kg with height of 110 cm, width of 160, will remain inside trunk of Dragon and wait until crew will manually transfer supplies to ISS. Later this summer, Canadarm2 will extract IDA from Dragon and attach it to PMA-2 (Pressurized Mating Adapter) of Harmony module. Final attaching process will be performed during EVA by crew members. IDA is result of international cooperation, but was manufactured mainly by RCC Energia in Russia-it is truly improvement of flexibility of ISS; upgraded with two IDAs (next is planned for CRS-12 mission) ISS could be used more effectively with wider range of vehicles, experiments and equipment, which could be easily attached to Station. In spite of IDA, Dragon will deliver such scientific experiments like Biomolecule Sequencer, Phase Change Heat Exchanger, OsteoOmics (biological experiment of effect of microgravity conditions on bone cells), Heart Cells (research on heart cells in microgravity), Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver for 12 months test of stability and two Nanoracks experiments. Results of both will serve in future space exploration; Gumstix is experimental computer, which should be more vulnerable for space radiation and Nano Tube Solar Cell, which are experimental 3D solar arrays with increased efficiency. Docking is planned for 20th July, 2016, to Harmony Earth facing port. Dragon will perform rendezvous and will be grabbed with Canadarm2 operated from Cupola module by Jeff Williams (Kate Rubins was designated as backup operator).

At the present weather forecast for Dragon is favorable with 90% launch probability. Also weather forecast for Baikonur for tomorrow is also good, so probably both missions will start according to plan.