Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Russian Cargo Ship Out of Control

The launch earlier today of the Progress M-27M. Video source: Телестудия Роскосмоса YouTube channel.

Spaceflight Now reports that the Russian cargo ship Progress which launched from Kazakhstan at 3:09 AM EDT today is out of control.

Go to www.SpaceflightNow.com or follow them on Twitter at @SpaceflightNow for updates.

UPDATE April 28, 2015 8:15 PM EDT — It's not looking good for Progress M-27M.

Click the arrow to watch the footage. Video source: NASA YouTube channel.

NASA TV aired the above footage this morning that had been transmitted from the cargo ship.

According to a NASA press release:

The cargo of Progress 59 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 loss on October 28, 2014 of the Orbital Sciences Antares rocket with Cygnus Orb-3.

The ISS lost one supply line last October when the Orbital Sciences Antares vehicle exploded on launch, destroying its Cygnus cargo ship. Orbital is working on a new version of Antares with Energomash RD-181 engines, but in the meantime won't fly until late this year, and that will be on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

If Roscosmos takes Progress off-line, then station reserves may start to dwindle.

According to Aviation Week:

While the U.S. segment’s food supply has enough reserves to last until Aug. 21, the date moves to July 5 if it must be shared with their Russian crewmates, according to an assessment provided by the NASA Advisory Council.

The next SpaceX Dragon delivery is scheduled to launch June 19, and the Japan HTV is scheduled to launch from Tanegashima Space Center on August 17.

UPDATE April 29, 2015 8:15 AM EDTThe Russian news agency TASS reports this morning that “controlled deorbiting of the cargo spacecraft Progress M-27M is impossible.”

Specialists have arrived at the conclusion that controlled deorbiting of the cargo spacecraft Progress M-27M is impossible, a source in the space rocket industry has told TASS.

"Specialists have agreed that Progress is hopeless. Its controlled deorbiting is impossible," he said.

"Commands were sent many a time. None of them worked," the source said.

A press release from the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base states they have detected debris in orbit with the crippled Progress.

Joint Functional Component Command for Space's Joint Space Operations Center made an initial observation of an anomaly with an International Space Station Progress resupply cargo craft at 12:04 a.m. (3:04 a.m. EDT), today.

The JSpOC immediately began tracking the event and initiated the appropriate reporting procedures.

Currently, the JSpOC can confirm that the resupply vehicle is rotating at a rate of 360 degrees every five seconds.

Additionally, the JSpOC has observed 44 pieces of debris in the vicinity of the resupply vehicle and its upper stage rocket body, however, it cannot confirm at this time if the debris is from the rocket body or vehicle itself.

UPDATE April 29, 2015 9:00 PM EDTRussia Today reports that it is “impossible” for Progress M-27M to reach the International Space Station.

“After additional testing on April 29 we found out that several elements and tabs of the cargo spacecraft had shut down, and we also detected the leak integrity of the major-block engine,” Igor Komarov, head of Roscosmos, said at a press conference. “As a result, the further flight of the spacecraft and its docking to the ISS are believed to be impossible.”

Roscosmos has been pessimistic about further attempts at contacting the Progress spacecraft and regaining control over it.

“We are currently monitoring the systems of the cargo spacecraft and looking for options to burn the spacecraft in the atmosphere and probably to sink it in the ocean,” Komarov added.

The article states that the vehicle went into an orbit 40 kilometers higher than planned, and quotes the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) as saying its orbit has already decreased by seven kilometers.

According to Satflare.com, the Progress is projected to re-enter around May 9 at 3:00 AM EDT, give or take 50 hours. (Yes, I know, quite the deviation.) For what it's worth, N2YO.com projects this flight path over Florida for the morning of May 9:

Most observers at this point seem to think Progress won't survive re-entry, but Russian controllers have been making statements that they had hoped to control its re-entry by plunging it into an ocean, so we'll have to see what happens as events unfold.

UPDATE May 8, 2015CNN reports that the Progress cargo ship met its demise this morning over the central Pacific Ocean. “A few small fragments of Progress M-27M are expected to make it down to Earth.”

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