Russia's Soyuz rocket blasting off into space

Russian space capsule cargo ship explodes after lift-off

Image credit: Reuters

A Russian space capsule with supplies to the International Space Station has been lost shortly after lift-off yesterday evening.

The Progress capsule, carrying two-and-a-half tons of food and equipment for the International Space Station (ISS), was launched atop Russia’s workhorse Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan yesterday afternoon.

Ground controllers lost radio contact with the rocket shortly after lift-off. The space capsule was last detected flying at an altitude of about 190km above a remote Russian region.

The incident is the fourth failed cargo run to the ISS in the past two years, including one previous Progress failure. The failure comes at a critical time because SpaceX, one of two private US companies servicing the space station for Nasa, currently has its spacecraft grounded following an explosion on 1 September 2016.

However, Nasa said the six astronauts currently aboard the ISS have enough food and supplies to survive for several months.

SpaceX is awaiting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees US commercial space transportation, to fly its Falcon 9 rocket as early as mid-December 2016. If it receives the approval it could deliver the next cargo run to the ISS as early as January 2017.

The nearest cargo delivery, scheduled for 9 December 2016, will be made by the Japanese H-II spacecraft. SpaceX’s competitor Orbital ATK is expected to deliver its next cargo load to the orbital outpost in spring 2017.

Roscosmos is investigating the cause of yesterday’s incident.

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