Russian robotic spacecraft Progress MS-03 was launched successfully from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan yesterday at 21:41 GMT.

Roscosmos conducted second launch with cargo robotic spacecraft Progress-MS yesterday. It was penultimate Russian resupply mission to International Space Station and second flight of Progress-MS spacecraft in 2016. First mission of upgraded Progress started with launch on December 21, 2015 and just like second mission on March 31, 2016, was conducted using Soyuz-2.1a rocket. Yesterday, Roscosmos decided to use Soyuz-U rocket for the first time with Progress-MS.

Punctually at 00:41 Moscow time (today) or 21:41 GMT (yesterday) Soyuz-U rocket lifted off from Baikonur Cosmosdrome Launch Site 31 pad 6. Under its payload fairing remained third Progress-MS spacecraft with 2405 kg of supplies for six crew members on International Space Station flying over Africa on altitude of 402 km. After launch, according to flight plan, rocket was set with east course to place Progress-MS on correct orbit: 245 km x 193 km with inclination at 51.66°. At T+1’57” all four boosters were separated and started to fall into designated impact zone. Rocket was continuing flight nominally. At T+4’27” first core stage was shut down and separated from second stage after next 11 seconds. Second stage and Progress-MS reached at that moment altitude of 140 km. At T+4’56” fairing protecting Progress-MS from speed and pressure was jettisoned on altitude of around 150 km. Second core stage (third stage if we would count boosters as stage) jettisoned tail fairings fraction of second later and finally shut down its propulsion at T+8’44”. Separation of the last stage of Soyuz-U and Progress-MS was performed successfully 3 seconds later on orbit with following parameters: 242.47 km x 193.76 km with inclination at 51.65°. Progress started its 34-orbit way to ISS, which will last for two days and will finish on Tuesday, 18th July.

Soyuz-U rocket replaced Soyuz-2.1a version as launch vehicle for ISS cargo missions only for two missions scheduled for 2016. Rocket is manufactured by TsSKB-Progress and remains in service since 1973. It is slightly shorter than 2.1a (46 m instead 46.1 m) but offers lower LEO payload capacity: 6900 kg instead 7020 kg. Soyuz-U and Soyuz-2.1a are identical in diameter, but differ with weight – U version weighs 313 t and 2.1a-303 t. U version is equipped with four boosters long for 19.6 m with RD-117 engines, offering thrust at 838.5 kN – 2.1a boosters are identical with dimensions but are utilizing RD-107 engines with 839.48 kN of thrust; both are fueled with LOX/RG-1 propellant. Core of the  rocket begins with second stage, which is powered in Soyuz-U with RD-118 engine fueled with same propellant as boosters and providing thrust at 792.5 kN (2.1a is equipped with RD-108A fueled with LOX/RG-1 and with thrust at 792.48 kN). Third stage is equipped in both rockets with RD-0110 engine fueled with LOX/RG-1 and is providing thrust at 297.9 kN (298 kN in 2.1a). Second and third stage in both versions are identical with length and diameter: second is 27.1 m long with diameter at 2.98 m, third is 6.7 m long with diameter at 2.66 m.