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spaceSpace and Physics

NASA Says Russian Spacecraft Explosion Will Not Affect Space Station Operations

author

Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer

clockDec 2 2016, 20:08 UTC

NASA

Yesterday, we learned that a Russian Progress cargo spacecraft intended for the International Space Station (ISS) likely exploded on its way to orbit, and was lost.

Fortunately, NASA has said this will not impact operations on the ISS, so the astronauts won’t be going hungry any time soon. The station has plenty of stocks in reserve, and another upcoming mission will ensure it has all the essential supplies it needs.

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“The spacecraft was not carrying any supplies critical for the United States Operating Segment (USOS) of the station,” NASA said in a statement. “The next mission scheduled to deliver cargo to the station is an H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)-6 from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Friday, December 9.”

Everything seemed to be going fine for the Progress 65 spacecraft after launching yesterday at 9.51am EST (2.51pm GMT). But about six minutes later, there appears to have been a problem during the third stage separation. The vehicle subsequently exploded, with reports saying debris may have fallen over Tuva in Russia.

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, later confirmed the spacecraft had been lost.

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This is the second Progress spacecraft to have been lost in the last couple of years, with a number of successful launches on either side of these two failures. Although there’s no massive cause for concern at the moment, it’s slightly worrisome that the vehicle has failed twice recently.

And it perhaps puts greater focus on a number of other vehicles that are in operation, or soon to be, that will help keep the station resupplied through its lifetime – until as late as 2028.

At the moment, the aforementioned HTV vehicle is in operation, while SpaceX will also soon return to launching its Dragon capsule. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus vehicle also takes supplies to the station, and in a few years, we can expect to see a new mini space plane called Dream Chaser, built by the Sierra Nevada Corporation, also join the fleet.


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