The Russian cargo spaceship Progress MS-4 has been launched to the International Space Station but has fallen back to Earth

The Progress MS-4 spacecraft blasting off atop a Soyuz U rocket (Image NASA TV)
The Progress MS-4 spacecraft blasting off atop a Soyuz U rocket (Image NASA TV)

A little while ago the Progress MS-4 spacecraft blasted off atop a Soyuz U rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. After about nine minutes it separated successfully from the rocket’s last stage and was placed on its route. The cargo spacecraft began its resupply mission to the International Space Station also called Progress 65.

When the spacecraft was about to separate from the rocket’s last stage some problems with the reception of telemetry data started. It’s unclear whether the solar panels have been deployed and especially if it’s properly en route. The spacecraft was launched in the 2-day path but its status hasn’t been determined.

The mission of the Progress MS-4 spacecraft is part of the International Space Station supply program and is the fourth to use the new version of the Progress cargo spacecraft. The new systems are in their fine tuning stage on the manned Soyuz spacecraft as well.

Some problems were discovered in a couple of the new spacecraft before their launches but got fixed. Lately, it’s been a busy period for the Baikonur Cosmodrome’s ground staff because due to the delays that piled up, there were a number of launches in a matter of weeks. However, in the end the flights, both of the Progress and the Soyuz, were performed successfully, at least until now.

The Progress MS-4 cargo spacecraft is carrying a total of more than 2.4 tons of various types of cargo including food, water, air, oxygen, propellant and more such as a number of items for the International Space Station’s crew, various scientific experiments, tools and various hardware.

For now Roscosmos keeps on using the 2-day path because the tests of the systems that must be used in the stages following the launch to communicate with the Progress and Soyuz spacecraft are still needed. These systems were installed not long ago and it’s still not clear when they’ll be declared ready to use the 6-hour fast path.

For this reason, the Progress MS-4 cargo spacecraft was scheduled to reach the International Space Station on Saturday, around 16:43 UTC. At this point, however, we’ll have to wait until at Roscosmos they can understand the spacecraft’s status and see whether the mission is a success or it can be saved.

Edit. Roscosmos communicated that after the loss of contacts the Progress MS-4 cargo spacecraft fell back to Earth.

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