Russia appears to have identified the cause of the anomalous Progress MS-15 docking that saw a cosmonaut aboard the space station seconds away from taking manual control.
The Progress MS-15 spacecraft was launched aboard a Soyuz-2 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 23. Once in orbit, the spacecraft successfully rendezvoused with the International Space Station and began its final approach to dock with the orbiting laboratory.
During its final approach to the station, the Progress MS-15 spacecraft’s automatic docking system (Kurs) faltered. The system pulled the spacecraft up to 10 degrees wide of the Pirs docking point leaving it in danger of crashing into the station.
As the spacecraft approached within five meters, Roscosmos cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin prepared to take control of the spacecraft from the station using the TORU manual backup system. However, as it closed the last few meters, the Progress MS-15 spacecraft corrected its orientation and docked safely.
Although the docking was ultimately successful, a full investigation was launched to get to the bottom of the tense docking approach.
After less than a month, it appears that RSC Energia, the company that develops and produces Soyuz rockets, has identified the Soyuz-2 fairing as the primary cause of the anomalous docking of the Progress MS-15 spacecraft. In an August 18 report published by state-owned news outlet RIA Novosti, Roscosmos officials revealed that a redesign of the Soyuz-2 fairing was set to be finalised following “deviations revealed during the docking of the Progress MS-15 cargo vehicle.”
The exact nature of how the fairing caused the anomalous docking of the Progress MS-15 spacecraft or how it’s being redesigned is not known. Roscosmos officials did, however, reveal that the redesign would include “a number of minor modifications” to the Soyuz-2 fairing.