Progress M-27M Reenters, Russians Propose Changes to ISS Schedule – UPDATE

Progress M-27M Reenters, Russians Propose Changes to ISS Schedule – UPDATE

UPDATE:  Adds information on JSpOC confirming the reentry.

The Progress M-27M spacecraft reentered over the Pacific Ocean at 05:04 Moscow Time on May 8 (10:04 pm Eastern Daylight Time tonight) according to Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos.  Roscosmos reportedy is proposing changes to the schedule for launching the next crews and cargo missions to the International Space Station (ISS) as they continue to diagnose and remedy what went wrong.

Roscosmos said in a statement that the robotic spacecraft, which was carrying about three tons of cargo intended to resupply the ISS crew, “ceased to exist … over the central Pacific Ocean” at 05:04 Moscow Time on May 8 (May 7, 10:04 pm EDT).  The U.S. Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) later issued a statement confirming the reentry.

Launched on April 28, the spacecraft apparently was damaged when the third stage of its Soyuz 2.1a rocket suffered a malfunction as the two reached orbit.  Anatoly Zak at reported yesterday that Russian experts believe the third stage exploded, damaging the spacecraft and puncturing its fuel lines, putting it into a spin as the fuel vented into space. Russian flight controllers initially received conflicting data about the spacecraft’s status, then received video from an onboard camera showing it rotating several times a minute.   Soon thereafter, the mission was declared a total loss.

A Roscosmos working group is proposing changes to the next launches of ISS personnel and cargo as efforts continue to determine what happened with the Soyuz 2.1a rocket.  This was the second of four planned Progress launches to ISS this year.  The next two are currently scheduled for August 6 and October 22.  Russia uses a different variant of the Soyuz rocket to launch three-person crews on Soyuz spacecraft.  Three more Soyuz crew launches are scheduled this year:  May 26, September 1, and November 20.

The proposal is to delay the next Soyuz crew launch, Soyuz TMA-17M carrying Oleg Kononenko from Roscosmos, Kimiya Yui from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and Kjell Lindgren from NASA, until June 11 according to Russia’s official news agency, Tass.   Another Progress flight would be launched in late June/early July, and then another crew launch at the end of July, a separate Tass story stated.  These dates are all preliminary at this time.

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