Progress spacecraft fails to dock with International Space Station

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Pictured is the Progress M-55 spacecraft in 2006. A similar spacecraft was scheduled to dock at the space station today, but flew past due to a technical failure.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

The unmanned Progress M-06M supply ship failed to dock with the International Space Station Friday due to an apparent critical communications failure. The spacecraft bypassed the station at a safe distance and NASA officials report that the six member American-Russian space station crew were never in any danger; however, flight controllers are struggling to determine what exactly went wrong.

It is believed that the abort was caused by a malfunction in the Progress spacecraft's automatic docking system, resulting in the loss of telemetry data. The malfunction occurred while the spacecraft was at a distance of several kilometers from the orbital outpost, and there was never any threat to the spacecraft or the station, report NASA officials. "The Progress literally flew past the station, but at a safe distance from the outpost," says NASA commentator Rob Navias, "The station crew reported seeing the Progress drift beyond their view, as they worked to reestablish telemetry with the spacecraft."

The Progress supply ship was intended to deliver food, water, fuel, and other supplies to the space station and was launched earlier this week. According to Russian officials, no additional docking attempts will be made today. Flight controllers in Moscow are analyzing the problem and are weighing the possibility of a second docking attempt within 48 hours, but this still remains to be determined.