An uncrewed Russian cargo shipment to the International Space Station crashed into Siberia just minutes after blastoff this morning. The Russian space agency is reporting that the Progress M-12M cargo ship (pictured above) failed to detach from its launch vehicle at the correct stage of the launch, and was subsequently unable to enter the correct orbit.
While the Progress freighter was carrying 3 tons of cargo, Russian and US officials have both reported that the current crew of the ISS should have more than enough supplies on board to weather the effects of the lost shipment. Whether ISS crew members need to begin returning home will depend on how long Soyuz operations are put on hold.
Since NASA's shuttle program was cut earlier this year, Russia's progress freighters have been the only means of keeping the ISS stocked with supplies (though numerous private companies are currently vying for similar shipment contracts with NASA).
Despite this being the first crash after over 40 successful Progress cargo deliveries, the accident is liable to postpone future manned missions to the ISS (the next of which is scheduled for September 22) until the details of the crash are sorted out. Concerns are centered around the similarity of the Progress freighter's launch vehicle — the Soyuz-U — to the Soyuz-FG rocket that is used to lift crewed spacecrafts to the ISS.
"The anomaly has only just occurred; there's quite a bit of work to do to sort through where we're at," said Mike Suffredini, NASA's ISS manager. "If things work out and it looks like the Soyuz will be able to fly then we'll let the crew on orbit stay until we do a normal rotation."
Fragments of the craft are reportedly crashed into Russia's remote Siberian region, where the country borders with Mongolia and China. There are believed to have been no injuries on the ground.
Via BBC News
Images via NASA