Russian spacecraft due to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, burn up


International Space Station

An unmanned space cargo ship that spun out of control after launch last week is due to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere within hours, when almost all of it will burn up, Russian state media said.

State news agency Sputnik cited Russian space agency Roscosmos as saying the spacecraft is expected to “cease to exist” in a six-hour window between 12:45 a.m. and 6:36 a.m. Friday Moscow time (between 5:45 p.m. and 11:36 p.m. ET Thursday).

Small fragments of the spacecraft that don’t burn up may fall to Earth, and Roscosmos is expected to give more details Thursday on where they may land, state news agency Tass said.

Russian ground controllers lost contact with the Progress 59 spacecraft, originally bound for the International Space Station, soon after it launched on April 28.

According to NASA, the cargo ship was carrying more than 3 tons of food, fuel, oxygen, spare parts and scientific experiment hardware for the space station, but none of it is critical to its operation.

Even if Russia hadn’t lost contact with the craft, the original plan was for Progress to burn up re-entering Earth’s atmosphere — albeit laden with garbage rather than a full load of equipment for the space station.

The next planned resupply flight, which will be the seventh SpaceX commercial resupply services mission to the space station, is not scheduled to take off before June 19, NASA said.

Roscosmos has said it is working on its next supply flight to the ISS and expects to launch a new Progress ship in the third quarter of this year.