Russian Progress Resupply to ISS Fails

Soyuz M-12M
Launch of Progress M-12M aboard Soyuz Rocket.
Image Credit: NASA TV

At 325 seconds into the flight, the third stage sensed a low tank pressure condition and shut down the rocket. The Progress M-12M spacecraft and the attached third and fourth stages crashed in the Altai region of the Russian Federation. The region has had its share of falling debris over the decades, but the explosion created by the spacecraft and unused fuel and liquid oxygen was the largest ever reported.

The failure was the first Progress lost since 1978. There have been 43 successful resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) over the past 11 years.

Nearly three tons of supplies were lost, as well as the capability that the Progress had to re-boost the orbit of the ISS. The first of which was scheduled for 31 August. There are discussions underway as to whether the Progress M-11M, which undocked just prior to the launch. could be re-docked and used for re-boost. In addition, the ISS Service Module (SM) “Zvezda” has two engines capable of performing ISS re-boosts.

ISS program manager Mike Suffredini noted that “We are in a good position logistically to withstand this loss of supplies that were going to come to ISS. In fact, I can tell you we can go several months without a resupply vehicle if that becomes necessary.”

Russia has announced the suspension of all Soyuz launches pending an investigation. Russia has lost six spacecraft in the past nine months.

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