A Russian rocket carrying three tons of supplies to the International Space Station didn't achieve orbit and instead crashed in the Siberian forest.
An unmanned Progress cargo ship atop a Soyuz rocket booster turned into debris about five minutes 50 seconds after launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The explosion was so strong that for 100 kilometers (60 miles) glass almost flew out of the windows, state news agency RIA Novosti quoted Alexander Borisov, head of the Choisky region in Russia's Altai province, reports the Associated Press.
Even though the failure to reach the supplies does not pose an immediate problem to the six-member crew currently living in the space station, it does raise concerns over the efficacy of the this model of Russian rocket, which is also due to launch astronauts to the station.
The six people on board the space station are split into two crews of three people and each crew has a Soyuz spacecraft docked to the ISS that's ready to leave the orbiting laboratory at any time. One of the crew was due to return to earth on Sept. 8. However, until Russian space agency, Roscosmos, reviews the rocket failure, the Sept 21 launch of the next three-person replacement crew will be delayed. On board astronauts might have to stay a little longer as NASA wants to keep the outpost fully staffed with six to keep research going.
We will bring them home when it's right to do so, ISS program manager Michael Suffredini of NASA said during a televised briefing.
Their Soyuz capsule docked to the space station can remain safely in orbit for up to seven months.
After the end of its space shuttle program, NASA has collaborated with Russia, Europe and Japan to keep the space station stocked. It is the Russians who will be transporting astronauts back and forth.
Another Russian supply ship is set to launch on Oct. 26. Since its assembly is similar to the one used in Wednesday's launch- Progress capsule atop a Soyuz rocket- Roscosmos must investigate into the crash so that the supply ship can lift off.
However, even if no supplies are sent to the space station the crew members are under no immediate threat as they could stretch current stocks of food, water, and other supplies for a year. Moreover since the crew group that was slated to return in September have been on the space station since April, they must return latest by October.If the launch of the replacement crew is delayed, the stocks could last longer for the reduced crew of three, said NASA spokesperson Kelly Humphries.
We're perfectly able to operate with the crew [of three] ... we just won't get much research done, said Suffredini. Instead, crews would have to focus on maintaining the roughly 400-ton orbital laboratory.
According to a NY Times report, the Progress and Soyuz have proven reliable until now. Forty-three of the supply ships have successfully flown to the space station. But the failure on Wednesday was the second in August from the Baikonur launching pad in Kazakhstan. The upper stage of a Proton rocket sent a telecommunications satellite into the wrong orbit on Aug. 18.