Breaking News: Russian Spacecraft Heading For Earth
An unmanned Russian spacecraft is heading back towards Earth after the Russian space agency lost control of the supply ship soon after it was launched to dock with the orbiting International Space Station (ISS).
A series of technical problems has hit the 3-tonne Progress cargo ship causing it to spin out of control, with mission controllers at the Russian space agency in Moscow unable to regain contact with the damaged vessel.
The Russian spacecraft is likely to burn up as it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, with little chance of any sizeable debris reaching the ground. A controlled re-entry burn-up occurs routinely when Progress cargo vessels are filled with garbage and waste on their return journey from supplying the ISS.
Russian space engineers said that there are enough supplies on board the space station for the crew to survive until the next planned delivery in June by a freighter owned by the privately held SpaceX Company.
Although the Progress cargo ship has a good track record, this is the second loss of a robotic space freighter in 6 months. In October 2014, 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, 2 Americans, 1 Italian and 3 Russians are said to be in good spirits and confident that a second supply vessel will reach them in a few weeks.
“We should be OK. The program plans for these kinds of things to happen. They’re very unfortunate when they do. The important thing is that the hardware can be replaced,” Scott Kelly, who is one month into a planned one-year mission on the ISS, which will be a record for NASA, told the Associated Press.
The returning Progress spacecraft poses little risk to people on the ground, although the Russian space agency will be keen to ensure that its re-entry is as controlled as it can be, with little risk of debris hitting other orbiting satellites.