The unmanned cargo transporter “Progress M” was build based on the manned transporter “Soyuz TM” and was used for the automatic docking with orbital stations and orbital complexes for the completion of the foods and the supply of propellant as well as for the consigment of scientific equipement. It can also be used as space tractor to bring an orbital station into a higher orbit.
The payload of the cargo transporter Progress M was about 7.3 tons at the launch. The space vehicle construction included three main divisions:
- Cargo cabin and docking equipment
- Propellant chamber of the booster
- Instruments- and subsystem cabin, including the area for the equipment and a further one for the engines
The cargo cabin has a capacity of 6.6 m3. The internal pressure is normal (760 mmHg),and the internal temperature is kept between +3 and +30° C.
The cargo cabin is connected with the storage area for the booster-propellant. On the outside of the space transporter Progress-M are two antennae for the radio technical approach system and two television cameras installed. The propellant-service pipes run outside and connect the storage area for the booster-propellant with the hydraulic connections of the dockimg-airlock. About 1300 kg payload can be transported in the cargo cabin to the space station.
Normally there was maximum one “Progress M”-transporter inside the orbital complex “MIR”. The maximum operating time inside the orbital complex was 180 days and nights.
The control of the transporter at the duct of common maneuver of the cargo transporter and the orbital complex occurs automatical and is controlled per funk. Data about the function of the boarding systems of the transporter, which are sent to earth, are converted and sent back to hte “Progress” as commands for the accomplishments of essential maneuvers. If necessary the crew of the orbital complex can take a stake in the docking process.
After the removal of “Progress M” it is loaded with no more used equipement and all kind of garbage from the orbital complex. The transporter is undocked, and is brought remote controlled to the higher atmosphere and dies down in a designated area of the Pacific Ocean. The possibility of an other docking with the orbital complex is not designated.
As a new way for the return transport of smaller cargo a special capsule was developed. At the time it was in test and the first prototype was installed on the cargo transporter Progress M. The capsule with a mass of 350 kg was in the cargo section of the transporter Progress M-5 and divided from the transporter bevore he came back to earth. The landed capsule with a maximum of 150 kg return cargo can be recovered in maximum 3 hours.