Carrying more than 6,000 pounds of food, fuel, and supplies for the International Space Station crew, the unpiloted ISS Progress 59 cargo craft launched at 3:09 a.m. EDT (1:09 p.m. local time in Baikonur) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Russian spacecraft is now spinning out of control and is believed to be plunging back to Earth.
“It has started descending. It has nowhere else to go,” said an official, speaking anonymously to the AFP news agency.
“It is clear that absolutely uncontrollable reactions have begun.”
Russian flight controllers initially could not confirm the health of the spacecraft’s systems and deployment of Kurs rendezvous and other navigational antennas. They selected the backup rendezvous plan with a targeted arrival Thursday for the cargo ship and its supplies for the space station crew. The Progress spacecraft is in a safe preliminary orbit.
At the time of launch, the International Space Station was flying about 257 miles over northeast Kazakhstan near the Russian border, having flown over the launch site two and a half minutes before lift off.
As Progress passed over Russian ground stations, the Russian flight control team issued commands through the telemetry system onboard the spacecraft in an attempt to receive confirmation that navigation and rendezvous systems had deployed. But, due to sporadic telemetry from Progress 59, inconclusive data, and trouble uplinking commands to the spacecraft, controllers were unable to confirm the status of the systems.
Flight controllers will continue to look at the telemetry system to determine the overall health of the spacecraft’s systems. Instead of a four-orbit, six-hour docking later this morning as originally planned, Progress now will make a two-day, 34-orbit rendezvous with the station. With the two-day rendezvous, the Russian cargo craft is scheduled to arrive at the space station at 5:03 a.m. Thursday. Russian flight controllers are continuing to work to establish a good link with the Progress as it approaches the space station.
Update (11:00 p.m. EDT): 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.
UPDATE (9:35 a.m. EDT): Russian flight controllers have continued to try and recover telemetry capability with the ISS Progress 59 cargo craft this morning. The most recent ground pass started at 9:20 a.m. EDT and flight controllers reported no change in the issues with receiving telemetry data from the unmanned craft. The Russian flight control team attempted to command the vehicle over four orbits flying over Russian ground sites with no success. The next series of ground station passes is expected to resume late Tuesday evening. Teams are standing down on the Thursday docking attempt while Russian teams continue to analyze data and develop a troubleshooting plan going forward.
UPDATE (8:15 a.m. EDT): Russian flight controllers are continuing to troubleshoot issues with the ISS Progress 59 cargo craft. The spacecraft made another pass over Russian ground stations and continued to experience telemetry problems regarding the deployment of navigational antennas and the pressurization of the manifolds in the propulsion system. Flight controllers also confirmed that the vehicle had entered into a slow spin and have issued commands to attempt to control it.