An unmanned Russian spacecraft bringing 2.5 tons of supplies to the International Space Station was lost shortly after liftoff from Kazakhstan on Thursday, according to Roscosmos, the Russian State Space Corporation.
The cargo ship, the ISS Progress 65 (also known as Progress MS-04) launched Thursday at 8:51 p.m. on the Russian-built Soyuz rocket, but just over six minutes into the launch, the data transmission from the spacecraft was lost. Radar stations in Russia were unable to detect the cargo vehicle on its expected path into orbit.
Shortly after the spacecraft was reported lost by the Russian space agency, social media reports of fireballs and other suspected debris began to surface in southern Siberia.
These reports were soon substantiated by Roscosmos, which reported the incident occurred at an altitude of about 118 miles (190 kilometers) above the remote and largely unpopulated Republic of Tuva in southern Siberia.
Most of the fragments of the spacecraft “burned in the dense atmosphere,” according to Roscosmos, but it is possible some of the debris fell to the Earth’s surface.
The Progress MS-04 was carrying a varied and valuable payload to the International Space Station that included an upgraded spacesuit to be used in spacewalks, a mini-greenhouse, and parts for the experimental Russian toilet to recycle urine into water (something Americans onboard have been doing for several years).
NASA alerted the ISS crew to the failure of the cargo ship (which you can listen to here), calling it some “unfortunate news.” But NASA said the crew is safe and that “consumables aboard the station are at good levels.”
The Progress missions from the Russians are part of a regular launch schedule to keep the ISS well supplied with the necessities, as well as to complete various experiments.
It would likely take several failed resupply missions to put the crew at significant risk of running out of food, medical and sanitary supplies.
The next resupply mission will launch Friday, December 9, from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.