A Russian spacecraft that is spinning out of control towards Earth after a malfunction during a £25 million resupply mission to the International Space Station has been abandoned.
The Progress M-27M spacecraft, carrying near three tonnes of supplies for astronauts aboard the International Space Station, entered an “uncontrolled descent” 100 miles above the Earth and is expected to plunge to earth sometime between May 7 and 11.
Igor Komarov, the head of Russia’s Roskosmos space agency, said engineers had struggled to regain control of the ship after it spun out of control soon after launch on Tuesday.
“Additional tests today revealed that further controlled flight and safe docking with the ISS is impossible,” said Igor Komarov, the head of Roskosmos, the Russian space agency.
“We’re abandoning the resupply mission and working on options for scuttling the ship,” he added.
Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle carrying Progress M-27M cargo ship (EPA)
The flight ran into difficulty when telemetric communications failed just a second and a half before separation of the rocket’s third stage, causing it to enter an erroneous orbit.
By Wednesday evening it was spinning through space at 90 degrees a second at an altitude of 123 miles, having already lost several kilometres of altitude.
Alexander Ivanov, Mr Komarov’s deputy said a commission would seek to establish what went wrong by May 13. “It is too early to say who or what is to blame,” he told reporters at a hastily convened press conference in the agency’s Moscow headquarters on Wednesday.
He declined to predict exactly where the ship would fall, but said calculations suggested it would re-enter the atmosphere “somewhere over the Pacific” sometime between May 5 and May 7.
The crash is unlikely to pose any threat to residents or trans-pacific shipping, however, with the entire craft expected to burn up as it re-enters the atmosphere.
Progress vessels are routinely disposed of in this way after being loaded with rubbish from the international space station.
Despite the loss of nearly three tonnes of supplies, Russian officials insisted the incident will not pose any threat to the three Russian, two American, and one Italian astronaut on board the station.