Russian cargo spacecraft ends mission with fiery return to Earth
A Russian cargo ship ended its eight-month orbital stay with an intentional death dive into Earth’s atmosphere on Sunday night (Oct. 23).
The uncrewed Progress 80 freighter, which brought more than 3 tons of food and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) in February, undocked from the orbiting lab at 6:46 p.m. EDT (2246 GMT) on Sunday.
“The spacecraft backed away from the space station, and a few hours later, Progress’ engines fired in a deorbit maneuver to send the cargo craft into a destructive re-entry in the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean,” NASA officials wrote in an update (opens in new tab) on Monday (Oct. 24).
Progress is one of three robotic spacecraft that regularly ferry supplies to the ISS, along with SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus vehicle. Progress and Cygnus burn up in Earth’s atmosphere when their orbital work is done, while Dragon comes home for safe splashdowns and future reuse.
Three visiting spacecraft remain attached to the ISS after Progress 80’s departure — the Progress 81 freighter, a Russian Soyuz and the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Endurance.
These latter two vehicles are astronaut taxis, and both lifted off relatively recently. The Soyuz launched on Sept. 21 and Endurance followed suit on Oct. 5, flying on SpaceX’s Crew-5 mission for NASA.
Another Russian freighter will lift off soon to take the place of the recently departed Progress 80. The uncrewed Progress 82 spacecraft is scheduled to launch atop a Soyuz rocket Tuesday (Oct. 25) at 8:20 p.m. EDT (0020 GMT on Oct. 26).
If all goes according to plan, Progress 82 will arrive at the ISS on Thursday (Oct. 27) at 10:49 p.m. EDT (0249 GMT on Oct. 28). You can watch the launch and docking live here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).