A Russian spacecraft carrying three tons of food, fuel and water for the International Space Station broke down about five minutes after it blasted off on Wednesday.
“The Progress M-12M cargo ship was not placed in the correct orbit by its rocket and fell back to Earth,” the Russian space agency Roscosmos said.
The launch took place at 9 a.m. EDT Wednesday from Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan. Mission Control Moscow reported that communication with the spacecraft was lost five minutes, 50 seconds after launch.
At 1300 (GMT), we lifted off. Following 320 seconds of flight there was a failure in the upper stage of the launch vehicle. We lost communications after a while with the launch vehicle and we did not report stage separation,” said Maxim Matuchen, head of the Russian Mission Control Center.
The agency said the engine failure made it impossible for the spacecraft to achieve the required orbital velocity and it fell to Earth.
The failure does not pose an immediate problem for the space station crew as they are stocked with supplies which were taken up by NASA’s last shuttle Atlantis in July.
The astronauts could stretch current stocks of food, water, and other supplies for a year, probably longer, with a reduced crew of three, said NASA spokewoman Kelly Humphries.
We will bring them home when it's right to do so, ISS program manager Michael Suffredini of NASA said during a press conference.
Scheduled launches of Soyuz rockets are likely to be suspended until the reasons of the accident are found out, a source in Russia's space industry told RIA Novosti.
Since the U.S. shuttle program retired last month, Russian Soyuz craft has become the only way for transporting supplies to space for American astronauts.
NASA is paying Roscosmos around $1 billion to fly Americans on these rockets for the next four years.
Six crew members, three Russians, two Americans and one Japanese, are currently working in the ISS.
The next Progress cargo ship will fly to the ISS after late September or early October, said Gennady Raikunov, head of the Central Scientific Research Institute of Machine Manufacturing.
This was the first launch to the station after the last shuttle flight. That mission delivered more than 9,000 pounds of food and equipment.
The loss is the first loss of a Progress in the history of Russia's space industry. The spacecraft crashed in the Siberian forest. Spacecraft debris landed in three separate areas of the Altai region in southern Siberia, which borders Mongolia,” the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations said.