Progress 59 lights up skies over the Pacific in a fireball

8 May 2015

The Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft is seen in this long exposure photograph as it launches to the International Space Station. Image via NASA

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At 03:04am UTC, Progress 59, which was being sent to the ISS to resupply crew members, which includes the year-long crew that won’t be returning to Earth until 2016, re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere.

According to NASA’s statement on the craft’s eventual demise “the spacecraft was not carrying any supplies critical for the United States Operating Segment (USOS) of the station”.

On board the craft was three tonnes of food, fuel and supplies

Perhaps more importantly, confirmation was also given that the ISS crew faced no threat as a result of the craft’s failure to reach the ISS; it had failed to regain its course following its telemetry error on 29 April.

Moments after the craft separated from the main spacecraft, the craft’s navigational antenna failed to deploy and its propulsion system failed to pressurise.

Dizzying footage had been released to YouTube of the craft spinning out of control and, despite the efforts of Russian ground control, it eventually succumbed to the inherent dangers of space travel.

The out-of-control craft posed no threat to the crew aboard the ISS.

Following the loss of the craft, Roscosmos had made a statement confirming that the failure will cost the Russian space agency 5bn roubles (€86m), but that cost will be offset by insurance taken out on the craft to the value of 2bn roubles (€34.6m).

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic