Russian Progress Cargo Ship in Trouble on Way to ISS

Russian Progress Cargo Ship in Trouble on Way to ISS

Russia launched a robotic cargo spacecraft, Progress M-27M, to the International Space Station (ISS) this morning.  Progress spacecraft routinely take food, fuel and other supplies to the ISS crews several times a year, but today’s launch went awry and the Russians report that it is spinning uncontrollably and in an incorrect orbit.

Russia’s official Itar-Tass news agency quotes a Russian rocket and space industry source as saying “The spacecraft is currently very quickly and uncontrollably turning on its axis, one turn in just several seconds.”  Itar-Tass also reports that “the spacecraft was failing to transmit telemetric data and also missed its target orbit.”

A video posted on YouTube with narration by a NASA announcer shows the view from the Progress spacecraft as it spins.

The spacecraft was launched early this morning Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) with the intention of docking with ISS six hours later under the expedited rendezvous and docking trajectory that has been used recently.   The Russians quickly abandoned that plan and reverted to the 2-day trajectory that was used for decades and is now available as a backup.  That would have meant a docking on Thursday.  

As the situation evolved, however, the Russians lost contact with the spacecraft and docking plans now are on hold “indefinitely.”

The spacecraft is carrying three tons of supplies, including fuel and food.

The next opportunity for Russian flight controllers to communicate with Progress is at 8:50 pm EDT tonight.  Check back here for updates.

NASA refers to this as Progress 59 because it is the 59th Progress to resupply the ISS, but Progress spacecraft have been launched since 1977 to resupply Soviet space stations.  There have been several dozen launches over those decades and the spacecraft has been upgraded several times. 

A SpaceX cargo spacecraft, Dragon, is currently docked with the ISS and delivered food and other supplies.   The United States uses two cargo spacecraft — Dragon and Orbital ATK’s Cygnus — to take cargo to the ISS.  Orbital ATK is currently recovering from a launch failure of its Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft last October, but is planning to launch a Cygnus using a different rocket later this year.   In addition to those two spacecraft and Russia’s Progress, Japan’s HTV spacecraft can also deliver cargo.  (Europe’s ATV was used in the past, but it has completed its final flight.)

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.