Progress M-15M approaches the ISS
|Station crew||Expedition 31/32|
|Launch site||Baikonur Site 31/6|
|Launch date||20 April 2012
|Decay Date||20 August 2012|
|Docking date||22 April 2012
|Undocking date||22 July 2012
|Docking date||29 July 2012
|Undocking date||30 July 2012
Progress M-15M (Russian: Прогресс М-15М), identified by NASA as Progress 47 or 47P, is a Progress spacecraft used by Roskosmos to resupply the International Space Station during 2012. The fifteenth Progress-M 11F615A60 spacecraft, it has the serial number 414 and was built by RKK Energia. It arrived at the ISS in late April to deliver supplies to the Expedition 30 crew, and departed the ISS in late July.
It was the 122nd launch to the ISS and the fifth Russian space launch in 2012. It was also the second mission for the Soyuz family of rockets since the beginning of the year.
The spacecraft was launched on time at 12:50:24 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ten minutes after liftoff, the Soyuz-U Rocket carrying Progress M-15M successfully delivered the spacecraft to orbit to begin its International Space Station (ISS) Resupply Mission. Progress M-15M was inserted into a 193.68 x 256.52 km x 51.63 deg. inclination orbit.
Five Maneuvers were conducted to refine the orbit of Progress M-15M before rendezvous operations started early on 22 April. Progress M-15M docked with the ISS on April 22 at 14:39 GMT to the Pirs Docking Compartment Nadir Port. The port was vacated on 19 April by Progress M-14M. Fully automated rendezvous and docking operations using the Kurs docking system aboard the ISS and the Progress, drove the spacecraft to the linkup at orbital sunset. During the docking the ISS and Progress M-15M were orbiting 249 miles above northern China. Hooks and latches were engaged a few minutes after docking to firmly secure the spacecraft to the ISS.
The Expedition 30 crew opened the hatches and entered the Progress later on the day.
Undocking and decay 
The M-15M spacecraft will remain docked to the ISS for three months. While docked, its cargo will be off loaded to the ISS and be loaded with trash and unwanted items for disposal.
Kurs-NA Test 
Kurs is the system used by Progress spacecraft for automated rendezvous and docking with the space station. In addition to its current Kurs-A antennas, Progress M-15M was also fitted with a new antenna system known as Kurs-NA. The first Progress M-15M docking to the space station used the traditional Kurs-A. It was decided as such to ensure that Progress' cargo would not go wasted, should the new Kurs-NA system fail. Kurs-NA system is more power efficient than its predecessor, Kurs-A. It also replaces the function of five existing Kurs-A antennas into one antenna, thus allowing for the removal of four antennas from future Progress and Soyuz spacecraft. Getting rid of these antennas will reduce the risk of a docking failure as they are deployed post-launch but retracted prior to docking since the four antennas extend forward of the Progress docking interface.
First undocking and failed redocking 
On 22 July 2012, Progress M-15M undocked from the Pirs Docking Compartment and tried to perform a re-rendezvous two days later to test the new Kurs-NA navigation antenna. The undocking from the space station's Pirs compartment occurred around 20:27 GMT. The undocking occurred 255 miles over eastern Mongolia. The redocking was scheduled for 01:57 GMT on 24 July. However it was aborted after equipment aboard the Progress spacecraft failed a self-test.
The problem occurred at 01:23 GMT while the KURS-NA system was being activated. The issue forced the spacecraft into a passive abort mode as designed under safety protocols. At the time of the abort ISS and Progress were flying 9.3 miles apart. Two orbits after the abort, Russian flight controllers commanded the automated rendezvous system to re-activate for the collection of data. A second redocking attempt had to be delayed till 28 July to de-conflict with the arrival of the Japanese Kounotori 3 spacecraft at the ISS on 27 July.
A likely cause for the aborted rendezvous was pointed at lower than expected temperatures on Progress M-15M. As a solution to the issue, Russian engineers turned on all available heaters on the spacecraft, which kept Progress M-15M at a constant 22 degrees, which in turn resulted in Kurs-NA activating successfully, paving the way for the second docking attempt.
Second successful dedocking 
When Kurs-NA was successfully activated at 23:00 GMT on 28 July, it locked on to the passive Kurs-P on the Zvezda service module of the ISS. The re-rendezvous, fly-around and docking to the space station's Pirs compartment successfully occurred at around 1:00 GMT on 29 July. During the time of the docking the ISS and the Progress was flying above the Earth to the west of New Guinea.
Final departure from the ISS 
Progress M-15M will conduct two experiments: Khlopushka, from August 6-14, and Radar-Progress, from August 15-20. At the completion of the Radar-Progress experiment, Progress M-15M will de-orbit for a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean.
Progress M-15M was packed with 2,703 pounds of equipment, food, clothing, life support system gear ("dry" cargo), 1,988 pounds of propellant to replenish reservoirs that feed the Russian maneuvering thrusters, 926 pounds of water and some 110 pounds of oxygen and air.
Among the cargo items inside the Progress, there was a special present for the Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who arrived at the ISS on May 15, 2012 and is expected to celebrate his 54th birthday in orbit on June 21.
- "Russia's Progress space freighter docks with ISS". Xinhua. 23 April 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
- Pete Harding (22 April 2012). "Progress M-15M docks to ISS amid busy period of visiting vehicle activities". NASASpacefllight.com. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
- Justin Ray (22 April 2012). "Space station welcomes Russian cargo ship arrival". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
- Pete Harding (28 July 2012). "Progress M-15M re-docks to ISS following resolution of Kurs-NA failure". NASAspaceflight.com. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
- "Progress M-15M - Mission Updates". 101 SPACEFLIGHT. 20 April 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
- RIA Novosti (31 July 2012). "Russian Space Freighter Departs From Orbital Station". RIA Novosti. Retrieved 5 August 2012.