April 25, 2013
Russian Cargo Carrier Mishap May Cost ISS Crew Millions In Supplies
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The Progress cargo carrier that launched yesterday to resupply astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) may now be lost in space. The Russian spaceship carrying 2.5 tons of cargo may fail to properly dock with the orbiting laboratory after its navigation antenna failed to deploy properly.
"Once in orbit, an antenna used as a navigational aid on the Progress did not deploy. Russian ground controllers are assessing a fix," NASA said in a Tweet after the launch. An unnamed source told Interfax news agency that after the cargo carrier manually docks with the station, the unopened antenna could run up against the docking node.
"In that case, the docking process will be impossible to complete in a perfectly hermetically-sealed manner," the source said.
Vitaly Lopota, president and general constructor at RKK Energiya, told Interfax on Thursday that they will continue to attempt to deploy the antenna.
"We will try to open the antenna on the Progress once again. Even if it doesn't open, we will dock with the ISS in an automatic mode. A reserve teleportation manual docking mode is also possible," Lopota said.
The Progress resupply vessel is taking up 1,764 pounds of propellant, 48 pounds of oxygen, 57 pounds of air, 926 pounds of water and 3,483 pounds of spare parts. The spacecraft was scheduled to dock with the space station's Zvezda service module on Friday at 8:26 a.m.
This is just another in series of mishaps that has plagued the Russian space agency in recent years. Just last year, Roscosmos announced that its Proton-M rocket had failed to lift two satellites into orbit. In the first stages, the rocket's boosters appeared to work fine, but the upper stage intended to give the satellites their final push switched off prematurely. The total loss of these satellites not only cost $100 to $150 million but also made another ding in Roscosmos' international reputation.
Roscosmos had planned to send the Phobos-Grunt mission to Mars in 2011, but shortly after launch the spacecraft found itself stuck in orbit around Earth after its rocket boosters failed to fire. A few months later, the 13.5-ton spacecraft re-entered the Earth's atmosphere and salvage teams were unable to find the location of the crashed remains.
And in February, Russia's Zenit-3SL launch vehicle failed to deliver a US telecommunications satellite into orbit. The rocket failed a mere 40 seconds after lift-off and plunged back into the Pacific Ocean.