Progres MS-14's rocket lifting off the launch pad

Progress MS-14 (75P) | Soyuz 2.1a

What’s All This Mean?

Progress MS-14 is the 75th Russian cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). It will fly on a Rocosmos Soyuz 2.1a rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The automated spacecraft is expected to stay at the ISS for about 210 days.

Lift Off Time (Subject to change)
April 25, 2020 – 01:51:41 UTC | 7:51:41 Local Time
Mission Name and what it is
Progress MS-14 (75P), a cargo resupply mission to the ISS
Launch Provider (What rocket company is launching it?)
Roscosmos
Customer (who’s paying for this?)

Roscosmos

Rocket
Soyuz-2.1a
Launch Location
Launch Complex 31/6, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan 
Payload mass
Approximately 9,400 kg (20,700 lbs)
Where’s the payload going?
Low-Earth Orbit (LEO), rendezvous with the ISS
Will they be attempting to recover the first stage?
No, the booster is expendable
Where will the first stage land?
The booster will crash into the desert
Will they be attempting to recover the fairing?
No
This will be the:
  • 361st  launch for Roscosmos
  • 166th mission for all Progress spacecraft variants
  • 75th Progress ISS resupply mission
  • 20th flight of the Soyuz 2.1a rocket
  • 6th mission for Russian Soyuz 2.1 in 2020
  • 4th mission for Roscosmos in 2020
Where to watch
NASA TV live stream in Russian with English voiceover translation

Roscosmos live stream in Russian

Image by Geoff Barrett

What is Progress MS-14?

Space stations need a constant stream of cargo to keep them fully supplied and capable of supporting both their humans and experiments. Back in the 1970s, Soviet engineers determined that the best way to resupply a space station was with an automated cargo space vehicle. Consequently, the Soviet Union developed the Progress cargo vehicle derived from the Soyuz spacecraft. Progress started servicing the Salyut space stations in 1978. Today, they service the ISS with the Progress MS series, an updated version of the original spacecraft.

Design

Starting with the first Progress, designers divided the spacecraft similarly to the Soyuz’s three compartment layout. At the back is the propulsion system, which also includes the guidance equipment. In the middle, what would be the Descent Module for Soyuz, is the tanker section on Progress. These tanks are used to refill station consumables such as propellant and water. Finally, the front section contains a pressurized area where crews can retrieve other supplies, for example, experiment racks and food.

Unlike SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft, Progress MS-14 won’t be able to return samples back to Earth. When Soviet engineers designed the original Progress back in the 1970s, they blended all three modules together. That configuration left no ability for the spacecraft to survive the return through the atmosphere.

Progress MS-14 Mission

Progress MS-14 is the 75th Russian resupply mission to the ISS–that’s where the “75P” designation comes from. It’s also the 166th flight of a Progress spacecraft, including all variants. The MS series began flying in December 2015 and their tail serial numbers started at 430. Serial number 444 is Progress MS-14 (75P)’s internal designation.

Cargo for this resupply mission will include about  2,480 kg of supplies in total to the ISS. The cargo breakdown is:  in the tanker section, about 650 kg of propellant for refueling; approximately 420 kg of water; around 50 kg of pressurized oxygen. In the pressurized section, around 1,350 kg of dry cargo will be available to the crew to unpack, such as food rations, life-support and flight control systems, hygiene and medical supplies. After about 210 days at the ISS, the station’s crew will pack the pressurized section with garbage and waste products. Finally, Progress MS-14 will separate from the ISS and burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere, likely in November 2020.

A Progress MS spacecraft in LEO. Photo credit: Roscosmos.

What is the Soyuz 2.1a Rocket?

Soyuz is a direct descendent of the Soviet rocket that launched Sputnik 1, the R-7A Semyorka. Introduced in 1966, the Soyuz launch vehicle has flown over 1,700 times, in many variants. From late 2002 to 2019, the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle was the only one used by Roscosmos to launch crews to the ISS as well as Progress spacecraft. The FG variant’s last launch was the crewed Soyuz MS-15 mission. Soyuz-FG used an aging analog flight control system that was outdated. It was a stop-gap vehicle until Roscosmos could design a more modern one and flight prove it.  

Soyuz 2.1a version

The modern Soyuz 2.1 launch vehicle uses digital flight controls with significantly improved capabilities over the Soyuz-FG. The Soyuz 2.1 comes in two versions that use different third stages: 2.1a and 2.1b. The first launch of a Soyuz 2.1a was on November 8, 2004, from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

Starting with the Soyuz MS-16 mission, the Soyuz 2.1a version is Roscosmos’s main launch vehicle for crewed missions to the ISS. It is also the Progress spacecraft’s main launch vehicle. In this configuration it is a three-stage launch vehicle, with the Russians counting the side boosters as the first stage:

  • four side boosters (first stage)
  • a central core booster (second stage)
  • a third central stage
  • fairings to encapsulate the Progress MS-14 spacecraft
The Soyuz 2.1a rocket carrying the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft is transported to the launch pad
At the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft and its Soyuz 2.1a booster as crews transport them from the integration building to the launch pad on April 6. Photo credit: Andrey Shelepin/Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center.

Center Core Stage

The core stage uses an RD-108A engine with four combustion chambers and four nozzles. The engine uses kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants. The core also has four vernier thrusters, used for three-axis flight control once the side boosters separate. The core stage separates from the upper stage in a “hot staging” process. They fire the upper stage engine before stage separation occurs, then they release the stages.

Side Boosters

Connected to the core stage are four booster rockets. These side boosters use the RD-107A engine. It uses the same propellants as the rest of the Soyuz 2.1a’s other stages.

They locate the kerosene tanks in the cylindrical part and the liquid oxygen tanks in the conical section. Each engine has four combustion chambers and four nozzles. Each booster contains two vernier thrusters to control the rocket’s direction.

During side booster separation, the boosters peel off and cartwheel outwards away from the Soyuz 2.1a. We know the pattern they create as the “Korolev cross.”  The name is an homage to the rocket’s designer, Sergei Korolev. He was also the USSR space program’s Chief Designer in the 1950s and 1960s.

Rocket in the sky with a white trail of exhaust and four points of light from the boosters engines forming a "cross"
“Korolev Cross” as seen in the four bright points of light. Photo credit: Roscosmos.

Third Stage Soyuz 2.1a and 2.1b

The third stage uses either an RD-0110 engine in the Soyuz 2.1a version, or an RD-0124 engine in the Soyuz 2.1b version. The MS-14 mission utilizes the 2.1a launch vehicle, with a third stage using an RD-0110 engine. Although the rocket can use the Fregat upper stage, it is removed for crew or cargo resupply missions to the ISS. Progress MS-14 spacecraft’s thrusters are enough to reach the ISS without  the need of the Fregat stage. Progress MS-14 will conduct a rapid rendezvous with the ISS, catching up to it and docking on the second orbit.


RD-0110 rocket engine used on the Soyuz 2.1a launch vehicle’s third stage. Photo credit: Andrew Butko under Creative Commons license 3.0.

Where Does It Launch From?

Baikonur Cosmodrome

Did you know most Russian rockets don’t launch from Russia? That’s right. Since the 1950s, most of Russia’s launches occur in Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome. Since the break up of the Soviet Union, in 1991, Russia leases the Cosmodrome from Kazakhstan. The lease expires in 2050.

During the Cold War, in the 1950s, Soviet officials located this once secret rocket base in the Kazakh desert to hide it from western intelligence agencies. The location’s isolation from populated areas also means if a mishap occurs, rockets won’t explode over people. Baikonur’s location is in the Almaty time zone (ALMT), six hours ahead of Universal Coordinated Time (UTC), and three hours ahead of Moscow time (MSK).

Satellite view of Soyuz 2 rocket Launch Complex 31/6
An aerial view of the Baikonur Cosmodrome’s LC-31, taken in 2017. Photo credit: Roscosmos.

Gagarin’s Start

Baikonur has the distinction of launching the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, in 1957. The same launch pad also launched the first human into space, Yuri Gagarin in 1961. Ever since Launch Complex-1 (LC-1)  has been named Gagarin’s Start. It launches all R-7 derived rockets, including the Soyuz family. From 1967, all crewed Soyuz missions launched from here until 2019.

Launch Complex 31/6

Progress spacecraft started launching from Baikonur in 1978. Since 2015, all Progress MS missions launch from Launch Complex 31/6 which handles the Soyuz 2 family of rockets. Soyuz MS crewed spacecraft started using LC-31 in April 2020, with the launch of the Soyuz MS-16 mission. LC-31 can also launch the recently retired Soyuz FG rocket.

Soyuz 2 rocket on its side in the check out room near LC-31
A Soyuz 2 rocket on its side in the check out room near LC-31 in July 2019. Photo credit: Roscosmos.
3 comments
  1. Where did the third stage reentered? I found news saying it reentered in the Iberian Peninsule (Spain, Portugal), there is video footage supposedly showing it burning, is it right?

  2. So what’s with the old Soviet hammer & sickle on the side of the rocket?

    1. The rocket was launched on the 75th anniversary of Soviet Red Army’s victory in the Battle of Berlin, during the Great Patriotic War (known as WWII in the west). The livery was to commemorate the victory and the end of the war.

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