Russia has lost control of its Progress cargo capsule that was scheduled to deliver 6,000 lbs of supplies to the International Space Station this morning.
The spacecraft is tumbling around Earth as controllers try to establish contact.
The Progress 59 supply ship lifted off flawlessly from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, at about 3am local time today. It was scheduled to rendezvous with the ISS on Thursday but shortly after takeoff the spacecraft’s telemetry started failing, and it is now not accepting navigation commands.
“The Russian flight control team attempted to command the vehicle over four orbits flying over Russian ground sites with no success,” said NASA in a blog post.
“The next series of ground station passes is expected to resume late Tuesday evening. Teams are standing down on the Thursday docking attempt while Russian teams continue to analyze data and develop a troubleshooting plan going forward.”
The issue appears to stem from an improperly deployed navigational antenna and problems with the pressurization of the the propulsion system. The Progress capsule is still in a low orbit and is not posing a direct threat to the ISS.
The failure is a problem for NASA as this is the second resupply mission to fail in six months. In October an Orbital Science’s Antares mission blew up seconds after takeoff. Today’s failure will leave the ISS short of supplies.
NASA only maintains enough supplies aboard the ISS to cover the loss of two resupply missions, with a little bit more as an extra reserve. This latest supply ship contains mostly food and fuel. NASA will be looking to source another fast supply mission to make sure nothing runs out.
The failure is good news for America though.
SpaceX has a mission scheduled for June 22 and the firm has a perfect record in delivery.
For now the Russians will try and reestablish contact. If they can’t the Progress capsule will be allowed to fall back into the atmosphere and burn up with its cargo.