This Russian Soyuz rocket is getting ready to launch a Progress spacecraft to carry supplies to the International Space Station, and it’s oddly gorgeous. Update: A problem with sporadic telemetry and spacecraft control sent Progress spinning in space and thus far unable to rendezvous with the Space Station.
Fuelling of the Soyuz 2.1A rocket that will launch the Progress 29 spacecraft. Image credit: Roscosmos
Progress 29 is carrying the usual assortment of fuel, oxygen, food, equipment, and scientific supplies to the International Space Station, along with personal parcels for the astronauts and cosmonauts currently on-board. It will be launched by the Soyuz 2.1A rocket, which will be the second flight for the new configuration.
I’m not quite certain why I’m so fascinated by this particular launch setup — it might be the train or the saturated cheerful colours against a grey sky — but whatever it is, it’s a good start to an otherwise relatively-mundane flight.
The launch is scheduled for 1:09 pm local time (3:09 am EDT) on April 28th out of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. You can watch the launch livestream here.
Progress 29 under final preparations including weighing and rebalancing its load before being mounted on the Soyuz rocket. Image credit: Roscosmos
Soyuz being transported to the launch pad. Image credit: Roscosmos
Rocket and payload in the launch cradle. Image credit: Roscosmos
Crews finalizing rocket preparations on the launch pad. Image credit: Roscosmos
Soyuz rocket upright and ready to launch the Progress space capsule. Image credit: Roscosmos
The Progress 27 space capsule just left the International Space Station on April 25, 2015 en route to a destructive reentry, leaving the Pirs docking port clear for the upcoming arrival of Progress 29. A third Progress space capsule, Progress 28, is currently docked to the Space Station on the Zvezda Service Module.
Progress 27 departing from the International Space Station. Image credit: Roscosmos
Progress 27 departing from the station loaded with garbage for destructive reentry. Image credit: Roscosmos/Anton Shkaplerov
Update 12:30am EDT: NASA reports the launch went wel:
Carrying more than 6,000 pounds of food, fuel, and supplies for the International Space Station crew, the unpiloted ISS Progress 59 cargo craft launched at 3:09 a.m. EDT (1:09 p.m. local time in Baikonur) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
At the time of launch, the International Space Station was flying about 257 miles over northeast Kazakhstan near the Russian border, having flown over the launch site two and a half minutes before lift off.
Less than 10 minutes after launch, the resupply ship reached preliminary orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas as planned.
Russian flight controllers notified the crew members that Progress will make a two-day, 34-orbit rendezvous to the station instead of the planned four-orbit, six-hour journey after telemetry could not confirm the Kurs automated rendezvous antennas deployed.
The Russian cargo craft now is scheduled to arrive at the space station Thursday morning at approximately 5:03 a.m. EDT/9:03 UTC. The two-day rendezvous is a planned backup.
The launch seemed like it was successful, but problems quickly emerged. Image credit: Tsenki/Roscosmos
Update 11:00 am EDT: The Progress spacecraft has declared that no one is going to tell it what to do. Communication issues make everything unclear, but it looks like 3 of 5 navigational antennas failed to deployed properly, and it’s spinning rapidly. The cause of the tumble is uncertain: it could be from a bad separation from the rocket booster, a leak, or a partially-stuck thruster. The propulsion system may also still be offline, although likely because of communications issues not a technical problem with the system.
The Russian flight control team was unable to command the spacecraft during four separate orbits. Docking attempts are delayed while they try to figure out what is going on, and troubleshoot a plan to salvage the spacecraft.
Instead of the original plan of Progress docking with the space station after just four orbits in six hours at 9:07 pm EDT, the new plan relies on gaining control of the spacecraft over the next two days. If so, it will be in position to dock at the end of 34 orbits, arriving at the space station at 5:03 am on Thursday morning. Technically, the spacecraft could orbit a long time as they try to fix the problem, but it appears to be in a bad orbit and slowly getting dragged on by the atmosphere in an unintentionally-decaying orbit. If so, it could burn up in just a few days.
The Space Station has plenty of supplies so the astronauts and cosmonauts will be fine if this delivery run goes critically wrong and does not deliver its cargo. The spacecraft itself has no crew.