An unmanned Russian cargo spacecraft, hanging around in orbit after a failed attempt to carry supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), burnt up late Thursday as it was re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) said. Reports surfaced last week that the Russian Progress 59 cargo ship was apparently out of control, and was plunging back to Earth.
The spacecraft, loaded with more than 6,000 pounds of food, fuel and supplies for the ISS crew, fell from the orbit and re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere at 10:04 p.m. EDT over the central Pacific Ocean, according to Roscosmos.
“The spacecraft was not carrying any supplies critical for the United States Operating Segment (USOS) of the station, and the break up and re-entry of the Progress posed no threat to the ISS crew,” NASA said in a statement.
While most of the spacecraft was expected to burn up during its high-speed plunge through the atmosphere, a few smaller fragments were likely to survive and hit the ocean, Reuters reported. "Only a few small pieces of structural elements could reach the planet's surface," Roscosmos reportedly said in a statement.
The Progress 59 cargo spacecraft was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 28. However, it never made it to the space station, and after a communication failure, it went out of control.
Meanwhile, Russia has set up a special commission to investigate the unsuccessful Progress mission, the BBC reported, adding that even after the spacecraft failed to deliver goods to ISS, the astronauts have enough supplies to carry on with their mission until the next planned delivery scheduled on June 19.