TASS: No Hope Left for Progress M-27M-UPDATE

TASS: No Hope Left for Progress M-27M-UPDATE

Update, April 30, 2015:   Russia’s space agency Roscosmos now predicts Progress M-27M will reenter between May 5-7 rather than May 3-4.

Original Story, April 29, 2015:  Russia’s official Itar-Tass news agency reports today that there is no hope of recovering the Progress M-27M cargo spacecraft launched yesterday.  The spacecraft is loaded with three tons of supplies for the International Space Station (ISS) crew.   What happened to the spacecraft during or shortly after launch is not yet known.

Progress M-27M lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on time at 3:09 am Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) yesterday, April 28, 2015.   Whatever went wrong occurred close to the time that the spacecraft separated from the Soyuz rocket’s third stage.   Russian flight controllers received conflicting data about the spacecraft’s status and video from the spacecraft showed that it was spinning.

This morning EDT, Tass reported that the U.S. Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) had detected 44 pieces of debris “of unknown origin” in the orbit close to the Progress spacecraft.

A separate Tass story said that Russian space specialists “have agreed that Progress is hopeless, its controlled deorbiting is impossible.”  Three attempts today to communicate with the spacecraft were “futile.”  The report said that the spacecraft would reenter Earth’s atmosphere on May 3-4.

This is the second of four planned Progress missions to the ISS this year.   The other two are scheduled for launch on August 6 and October 22, but clearly those dates may change depending on the results of the investigation into this failure. 

Progress is one of four cargo spacecraft that service the ISS.   Two U.S. companies, SpaceX and Orbital ATK, have developed commercial cargo spacecraft — Dragon and Cygnus respectively.  Japan launches its HTV cargo spacecraft to the iSS.  A SpaceX Dragon is currently attached to the ISS and three more are scheduled for launch this year.  Orbital ATK is recovering from a launch failure last year that destroyed a Cygnus spacecraft and its cargo, but hopes to resume launches later this year.  An HTV is scheduled for launch in August.

NASA said yesterday that none of the cargo on the Progress M-27M was critical to U.S. operations on the ISS.  NASA refers to this as Progress 59 because it is the 59th Progress to be sent to the ISS, but it has a long history that predates ISS.

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