On April 28, Progress-59 launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Nine minutes later, flight controllers lost contact with the spacecraft. The spacecraft’s preliminary orbit was 20 kilometers below the usual altitude. Flight controllers tried several times to regain control of the spacecraft, but were unsuccessful.
The Soyuz capsule eventually re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and burned up over the Pacific Ocean.
This month’s planned launch of the next crew to the International Space Station has been delayed until July. Engineers are scrambling to figure it out exactly what happened during the Progress-59 resupply mission. That means Terry Virts, Samantha Cristoforetti, and Anton Shkaplerov will stay aboard the ISS just a bit longer.
A preliminary investigation notes “two consecutive events associated with depressurization of the third stage engine’s oxidizer tank and then the fuel tank,” according to Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.
A final report on the incident is expected to release on May 22.
Roscosmos uses different rockets for manned and supply missions
April 28’s launch was aboard a Soyuz 2.1a rocket (pictured below).
ISS crew missions use a different version of the Soyuz-FG rocket.
The Soyuz-FG rocket has been used for manned missions since October 2002. 38 manned missions have launched aboard these rockets; all have been successful.
While the rockets are different, officials are taking no chances. They want to know exactly what caused the problems during the April 28 launch. The safety of the astronauts/cosmonauts is paramount.
Samantha Cristoforetti is in good spirits
Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is excited about staying in space for a few more weeks.
Cristoforetti writes in a Google+ post,“today, Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency, has officially announced that our landing is delayed until early June, which means that… Terry, Anton and I get to stay a few extra weeks in space!”
What about supplies? “No worries,” Cirsoforetti writes. “I still have underwear, socks and even one of my bonus food containers left. I’m really glad that I saved some of those basic supplies, just in case! I was also able to recover a couple of brand new T-shirts that I had already used to wrap some Dragon return items: they might have some glue residue from the gray tape on them, but they’ll do the trick if I need them!”
With Cristoforetti in space for a few more weeks, we get to enjoy more of her fantastic photos. Give her Twitter a follow if you haven’t already. Here are two pictures she posted earlier today.