Launch of the Progress MS-16 mission atop a Soyuz-2.1a rocket

Progress MS-20 (81P) | Soyuz 2.1a

Lift Off Time
(Subject to change)
June 03, 2022 – 09:32 UTC | 12:32 MSK
Mission Name
Progress MS-20 (81P), a resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS)
Launch Provider
(What rocket company is launching it?)
(Who’s paying for this?)
Soyuz 2.1a
Launch Location
Launch Complex 31/6, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Payload mass
~2,500 kg of cargo
Where is the spacecraft going?
It will rendezvous with the ISS~400 km low Earth orbit (LEO) at a 51.65° inclination
Will they be attempting to recover the first stage?
No, this is not a capability of Soyuz
Where will the first stage land?
The boosters will crash into the steppes of Kazakhstan
Will they be attempting to recover the fairings?
No, this is not a capability of Soyuz
Are these fairings new?
This will be the:
– 20th launch of a Progress MS spacecraft
– 81st cargo delivery to the ISS  
– 173rd Progress launch

60th orbital launch attempt of 2022
Where to watch
Official livestream

What Does All This Mean?

Progress MS-20 (81P) is a cargo resupply mission that will be heading to the International Space Station (ISS). ROSCOSMOS will launch it using an uncrewed Progress MS spacecraft atop a Soyuz 2.1a launch vehicle. The rocket will lift off from Launch Complex 31/6, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. This mission will mark the 20th flight of the Progress MS capsule and the 81st cargo delivery to the space station.

Progress MS, 81P resupply mission, the ISS
The Progress MS spacecraft ready for the 81P resupply mission to the ISS. (Credit: ROSCOSMOS)

Progress MS-20 (81P)


Progress MS-20 will carry propellant and pressurized gases, water for the Rodnik system, and other cargo and equipment. Overall, this mission will bring approximately 2,500 kg of cargo to the ISS.

Progress MS-20 (81P) Mission Profile

Progress MS will separate from the third stage of the Soyuz 2.1a at ~9 min after launch. It will autonomously dock to the Poisk module (Poisk is the Russian word for “exploration”). It is used as a research facility, as well as a docking compartment for both Soyuz spacecraft and Progress capsule.

Approximate Timeline

From Lift-Off
– 00:00:15Engine start sequence
+ 00:01:58First stage separation
+ 00:03:03Fairing jettison
+ 00:04:47Second stage separation
+ 00:04:57Tail section separation
+ 00:08:45Third stage main engine cutoff
+ 00:08:49Progress MS separation

What Is Soyuz 2.1a?

ROSCOSMOS’s Soyuz is a multi-use medium-lift launch vehicle that was introduced in far 1966 and since then has been the workhorse of the Soviet/Russian space program. It is capable to launch civilian and military satellites, as well as cargo and crewed missions to the ISS. Over the decades, several variants of the Soyuz rocket have been developed. Soyuz 2.1a is one of its latest iterations that belongs to the Soyuz-2 rocket family.

Soyuz 2.1a, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Progress MS-16
Soyuz 2.1a is starting its Progress MS-16 mission (Credit: ROSCOSMOS)

The rocket consists of three stages, all of them are expendable. When launching to the ISS, Soyuz-2 can be flown with either a Progress capsule or a Soyuz spacecraft. On the Progress MS-20 mission, the Progress MS module will be used to deliver cargo to the ISS.

Soyuz 2.1a is about 46.3 meters (152 ft) in height and 2.95 meters (9 feet) in diameter. The vehicle’s total lift-off mass is approximately 312,000 kg (688,000 lb). The rocket’s payload lift capacity to low-Earth orbit (LEO) is between 6,600 and 7,400 kg depending on the launch site.


First StageSecond StageThird Stage
Engine 4 RD-107ARD-108ARD-0110
Total Thrust 840 kN (188,720 lbf),
sea level
1,020 kN (229,290 lbf),
792 kN (178,140 lbf),
sea level
922 kN (207,240 lbf),
298 kN (67,000 lbf),
Specific Impulse (ISP)263 s, sea level
320 s, vacuum
258 s, sea level
321 s, vacuum
326 s, vacuum

Side Boosters

The first stage of the Soyuz 2.1a rocket is composed of 4 side boosters that are powered by RD-107A engines. Each one of the boosters has a conical shape and a dry weight of 3,784 kg. It is approximately 19.6 meters in length, with a diameter of 2.7 meters. Each side booster has two vernier thrusters that are used for flight control.

The RD-107A engine runs on rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) and liquid oxygen (LOx). The propellants are stored in the pressurized aluminum alloy tanks, the kerosine tank is located in the cylindrical part of the booster, and the LOx one is in the conical section. Each one of those engines has 4 combustion chambers and together they are capable of producing a thrust of 840 kN at sea level and 1,020 kN in a vacuum.

"Korolev cross", Progress MS-16 mission
“Korolev cross” seen during Stage I separation on the Progress MS-16 mission. (Credit: ROSCOSMOS’s livestream)

Perhaps, the most spectacular moment of the Soyuz-2 rocket’s launch is the separation of the first stage. It happens approximately 2 minutes after the launch. The boosters perform a pattern, known as the “Korolev cross” (named after Sergei Korolev, a very important figure of the USSR space program and history).

Second And Third Stages

The center core stage is powered by a single RD-108A engine, and the upper stage is fitted with a single RD-0110 engine. Both of these engines run on rocket-grade kerosene and LOx and have 4 combustion chambers. The second stage is 27.10 meters long, with a diameter of 2.95 meters, and a dry mass of 6,545 kg. It has 4 vernier thrusters for three-axis flight control.

The third stage of a Soyuz-2 rocket has a height of 6.7 meters, a diameter of 2.7 meters, and a dry mass of 2,355 kg. One interesting thing about the engine on this stage is that it starts its ignition sequence prior to stage separation. This process is called “hot fire staging”.

Progress MS Spacecraft

The Progress module is a space “truck” for delivering cargo to the ISS. Its design is largely derived from the Soyuz spacecraft that serves for the transportation of astronauts to the ISS. The Progress capsule is 7.9 meters in length and 2.7 meters in diameter. It consists of three parts: a pressurized cargo module, a propellant compartment, and a rear service module (like the Soyuz spacecraft).

Unlike Cargo Dragon 2, it is not designed to bring cargo back to Earth. This is because the three modules on Progress are not capable to split before re-entry. Therefore, after unloading the cargo, the crew progressively fills it only with trash. At the end of its mission, the spaceship separates from the ISS, performs a deorbit burn, and entirely burns up upon re-entry in Earth’s atmosphere.

Progress MS-11 (72P), approaching ISS Pirs node, Expedition 59
Progress MS-11 (72P) approaching the ISS (Credit: NASA).

The MS series is the latest modernized variation of the Progress spacecraft that began flying in December 2015. Among the introduced upgrades are improved orbital debris shielding, a new flight-control and navigation systems, as well as a new external compartment that can be used for satellite deployment. 

Kurs-NA Automatic Docking System

Like the Soyuz spacecraft, Progress MS is equipped with a Kurs-NA automatic docking system that was first tested on the Progress M-15M mission in July 2012. Compared to its ancestor, Kurs-A, the new system has only one AO-753A rendezvous antenna. Kurs-A had five (two 2AO-VKA and three AKR-VKA) of them. This antenna broadcasts radar pulses that are needed to determine the altitude and relative position of the spacecraft to the ISS. Moreover, Kurs-NA uses less power than Kurs-A.

Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov and the TORU system
Expedition 64 Commander Sergey Ryzhikov practices using the tele-robotically operated rendezvous unit (TORU) (Credit: NASA)

In addition, the Progress MS spacecraft can be docked to the ISS manually by the docking system called the Tele-Robotically Operated Rendezvous unit (TORU). This manual system serves as a backup to Kurs-NA in emergency situations and is located inside the Zvezda service module. On the Progress MS-16 mission, the control of the capsule had to be switched over to the TORU due to a signal strength issue of the Kurs system.

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