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A Russian spacecraft is 'plunging towards Earth' after ISS docking went wrong

By Andrew Griffin

Published 29/04/2015

An unmanned Russian spacecraft could be headed towards Earth after its pilots lost control of it, according to reports.

An unnamed official has said that the ship has begun a descent towards Earth and that agencies have completely lost control.

The Progress craft attempted to dock with the International Space Station, but the procedure failed and the capsule has been floating around in space, unable to make contact with Earth.

The failed docking did not put anyone at risk, and the ISS astronauts have plenty of supplies. But according to agency reports officials have warned that the capsule is now headed down towards Earth.

Agencies are not clear what caused the problem. But they lost contact with the craft not long after it separated from the rocket that carried it into space.

Flight controllers have said that they weren't able to receive data from the capsule, and that it appeared to have gone into the wrong orbit.

Since then, agencies have been trying to get back in contact with the ship. If they are unable to, Progress will run out of fuel and is likely to head towards the Earth.

The last update from Nasa came overnight, and said that "Russian flight controllers are continuing attempts to communicate with and troubleshoot issues with the Russian Progress 59 cargo spacecraft as it makes additional passes tonight over Russian ground stations". They said before then that the ship had "entered a slow spin" and that flight controllers had "issued commands to attempt to control it".

The team controlling the ship are attempting to get access to its telemetry data as it passed over stations based on the ground in Russia. But they have so far been unable to, despite a number of flybys as the capsule orbits overhead.

It's unknown how much of a threat the capsule would pose if it were to come towards the Earth.

ISS Progress 47 is shown docked at the International Space Station’s Pirs docking compartment prior to its departure Saturday, April 25. Progress 59 was scheduled to rendezvous and dock in the same place. Picture: Nasa
ISS Progress 47 is shown docked at the International Space Station’s Pirs docking compartment prior to its departure Saturday, April 25. Progress 59 was scheduled to rendezvous and dock in the same place. Picture: Nasa

The capsule is carrying fuel, oxygen, water and spare parts and other equipment for the astronauts on board the ISS.

Three or four of the ships are launched per year, taking supplies to the space station. When they are finished with, they are usually filled up with the rubbish by the astronauts. After that, on-board thrusters are used to send the capsules back towards the Earth, where they burn up on re-entry.

Source: Independent

Independent News Service

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