Russian spacecraft hurtling towards Earth without control; May make landfall anytime on 11th May

Russian Progress 59 spacecraft to be moving towards earth after agencies lose control, may make landfall anytime on 11th or 12th May

The Russian space agency Roscosmos is trying to gain back control of its robotic cargo ship after communications were lost following the spacecraft’s launch toward the International Space Station. The Progress 59 capsule is now circling in orbit after experiencing a technical glitch.

The officials said that the walking coffin may make landfall on 11th or 12th May based on its trajectory. However it is not known which part of Earth will be hit by Progress 59 and the space agencies are trying hard to regain control.

The technical glitch occurred just after the Progress 59 space capsule was released into the orbit on Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan by Roscosmos. According to NASA, it was carrying “more than three tons of food, fuel, and supplies for the space station crew of six.” The capsule was meant to orbit the Earth four times before docking with the International Space Station to have its cargo offloaded.

NASA in a statement stated that “an unspecified problem prevented Russian flight controllers from determining whether navigational antennas had deployed and whether fuel system manifolds had pressurized as planned”, the moment the capsule was released from the rocket carrying it skyward.

The nature of the technical problem is not clear, but Nasa said a problem became clearly visible soon after the Progress cargo craft separated from the third stage of the Soyuz rocket.

All attempts from the Russian ground control to contact with the unmanned craft have failed. In the event contact cannot be made, it could be just days before the Progress 59 capsule runs out of fuel and starts an uncontrolled journey back into the atmosphere. According to NASA, the flight controllers also confirmed that the craft has now entered a slow spin, a fact that has been established in the NASA video below that shows the view from Progress 59 capsule onboard camera.

The Russian space agency had originals plans to dock the maneuvers again on Thursday; however, they have now dropped that plan indefinitely due to the continued lack of success of communication with the pod.

According to, except for an engine mishap on a similar Progress 44 flight in August 2011 that caused it to crash due to complete loss of communication and failure to reach the target orbit, Progress craft have been successfully helping the International Space Station since 2000, when people began living and working up there.

The current Progress craft is holding 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, says NASA.

The space agency also said that “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.”

Although the Progress cargo ship has a good track record, this is the second loss of a robotic space freighter in the past six months. Last October, Orbital Sciences Corp suffered an explosion on launch of its cargo ship intended for the orbiting laboratory.

The six astronauts living on the space station – two Americans, one Italian and three Russians – are said to be in good spirits and confident that a second supply vessel with reach them in a few weeks.

The next delivery to the ISS is planned by SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship on June 19. The SpaceX cargo ship will be carrying about 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments. Russia’s Progress spacecraft are part of a fleet of robotic spacecraft that regularly send over supplies to the ISS.

Three or four Progress cargo ships are released every year bringing necessities like oxygen, fuel and food supplies to the orbiting laboratory. After completing their mission, they usually fall into the Pacific Ocean.

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Kavita Iyer
Kavita Iyer
An individual, optimist, homemaker, foodie, a die hard cricket fan and most importantly one who believes in Being Human!!!


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