Taking two days to reach the International Space Station, Russia’s Progress MS-10 rendezvous and docked with the orbiting outpost’s Zvezda service module.
Progress MS-10 made contact with the aft port of the outpost's Zvezda module 19:28 UTC Nov. 18, 2018. Several seconds later, the vehicle’s docking probe was retracted to bring the craft in contact with the docking ring for a hard mate. The cargo freighter carries some 2,450 kilograms of food, supplies and equipment for the three-person Expedition 57 crew, which includes European Space Agency astronaut and ISS Commander Alexander Gerst, NASA astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev.
While the docking was fully automated, Prokopyev and Gerst monitored the approach. Had an off-nominal event occurred, the crew could have manually piloted the Progress spacecraft via controls aboard the station.
After several hours of leak checks, the hatches between Progress MS-10 and the space station are expected to be opened. The spacecraft should remain attached to the outpost until spring 2019.
Progress MS-10 launched atop a Soyuz-FG rocket at 18:14 UTC Nov. 16 from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. It was the first flight atop a Soyuz-FG rocket since the failed Oct. 11 launch of the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft with Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Hague.
The duo was supposed to join the in-progress Expedition 57 crew and remain aboard for six months. However, about two minutes into flight an abort was automatically commanded prompting Ovchinin and Hague to make an emergency landing downrange in Kazakhstan.
An investigation found an improperly-installed separation sensor caused one of the four boosters to remain attached to the ascending rocket. After inspecting the Soyuz-FG that would carry Progress MS-10 spacecraft into orbit, it was cleared for flight.
In two weeks, another Soyuz-FG is slated to launch Soyuz MS-11 with three crew members to the ISS—Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques. Their mission was moved up by several weeks as the space station is currently short-staffed.
In the meantime, another cargo spacecraft is bound for the ISS. Northrup Grumman’s NG-10 Cygnus commercial cargo spacecraft is set to rendezvous and berth with the station’s Unity module in the early-morning hours of Nov. 19—some 15 hours after Progress MS-10’s docking.
Both the Progress MS-10 and NG-10 Cygnus arrivals come near the 20th anniversary of the first space station module launch. The Zarya Functional Cargo Block was orbited on Nov. 20, 1998, by a Russian Proton rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Two weeks after that launch, on Dec. 4, Space Shuttle Endeavour took to the skies with the U.S.-built Unity module. After two days, the orbiter caught up with Zarya and the crew used the robotic Canadarm to join Unity with Zarya on Dec. 6.
After that mission, it would be two years, and several other launches with supplies and modules before the first crew—Expedition 1 with NASA astronaut William Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev—would launch to the outpost. Their mission docked with the aft port of Zvezda on Nov. 2, 2000.