Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Russian Progress M-27M Spacecraft Lost in Space, Falls to Earth

Soyuz 2.1a rocket carrying the Progress M-27M spacecraft launches to the ISS on Apr. 28, 2015. Credit: Roscosmos

After a successful launch of a Russian Soyuz 2.1a rocket carrying the Progress vessel from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan at 3:09 a.m. EDT (1:09 p.m. local time) on Tuesday, the cargo craft encountered problems when separating from the rocket. The spacecraft was initially set to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) six hours later, but numerous problems have resulted in what is now a lost vehicle, as it was seen spinning wildly on orbit. "Specialists have agreed that Progress is hopeless. Its controlled deorbiting is impossible," a source in the space rocket industry has told TASS. "Commands were sent many a time. None of them worked." Ship debris will fall to Earth between May 7 and 11, according to Interfax.

Right after the spacecraft separated from the Soyuz booster’s third stage, an unspecified problem prevented Russian flight controllers from determining whether navigational antennas had deployed and whether fuel system manifolds had pressurized as planned.

When flight controllers initially could not confirm deployment of the antennas in the minutes following its launch, they selected the backup rendezvous plan of two days and 34 orbits instead of the planned four-orbit, six-hour rendezvous.

During the spacecraft’s first four Earth orbits, the Russian flight control team made several unsuccessful attempts to confirm the status of the spacecraft’s systems but were unable to receive telemetry from some spacecraft systems. As a result, ISS flight controllers informed the crew a docking attempt to the station has been postponed.

Flight controllers also confirmed that the vehicle had entered into a slow spin and have issued commands to attempt to control it.

The Russian flight control team attempted to command the vehicle over four orbits flying over Russian ground sites with no success and on Wednesday morning they decided to call off the docking with ISS.

"Progress remains out of control," the source in the Russian space industry said Wednesday morning. "Minimum telemetry data are arriving from the Kvant module. It provides only some general parameters, but they are of little help. The main telemetry unit Blits keeps quiet."

"To be honest, only a miracle can save the ship. There is no telemetry, and the spacecraft has not been able to get out of its spinning and be stabilized, so a maneuver involving distance or manual docking is becoming extremely dangerous: the crew and the ISS could die [if a docking were attempted while the Progress is in spin]," the source added.

Soyuz 2.1a rocket carrying the Progress M-27M spacecraft launches to the ISS on Apr. 28, 2015. Credit:
Soyuz 2.1a rocket carrying the Progress M-27M spacecraft launches to the ISS on Apr. 28, 2015. Credit:

The personnel of the Joint Space Operations Center at the US Vandenberg Air Force base in California detected 44 debris of unknown origin in orbit close to the Progress craft, Center Chief Lieut.-Gen. Jay Raymond said on Wednesday.

The US specialists have failed to establish the origin of the debris so far, he said.

Due to the loss of the Progress M-27M, the launch of the next Progress re-supply spacecraft, which is scheduled for August 8, may take place ahead of schedule. "The launch of the next Progress may take place ahead of schedule due to the loss of the April spacecraft," the source said.

The cargo of Progress includes more than three tons of food, fuel, and supplies for the space station crew, including 1,940 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen, 926 pounds of water, and 3,128 pounds of spare parts, supplies and scientific experiment hardware. Among the U.S. supplies on board are spare parts for the station’s environmental control and life support system, backup spacewalk hardware, and crew clothing, all of which are replaceable.

The spacecraft was not carrying any supplies critical for the United States Operating Segment (USOS) of the station. Both the Russian and USOS segments of the station continue to operate normally and are adequately supplied well beyond the next planned resupply flight. The next mission scheduled to deliver cargo to the station is the seventh SpaceX commercial resupply services mission targeted for launch no earlier than June 19. It will carry about 5,000 pounds of science investigations and supplies.

Credit: TASSsputniknews.comNASA

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