Roscosmos: Telemetry Interrupted Just Prior to Progress Separation

Roscosmos_logoRoscosmos has posted an update on the Progress 59 flight. It’s in Russian, but I was able to use Google Translate to understand it.

The flight was nominal until 1.5 seconds before the time at which the Progress vehicle was to have separated from its third stage booster. At that point, telemetry data from the booster was interrupted.

After separation, partial communications with the progress was restored. The data indicated that various systems were not performing normally. The ship was also rotating at about 90 degrees per second.

Docking the cargo ship at the International Space Station is impossible. The station and its crew are not at risk because they are in a much higher orbit.

A commission has been established to identify the cause of the failure. The commission’s findings are expected no later than May 13.

Russia plans to launch additional Progress resupply ships in the third and fourth quarters of this year.


  • Chief Galen Tyrol

    I’m not an expert, but superficially, the Soyuz and Progress vehicles (and their boosters) look very similar to me. Is it possible that the subsystem that caused the malfunction is shared by Soyuz and Progress?

  • mike_shupp

    Soyuz is manned (or “crewed”) and space agencies generally take a little more care building and inspecting vehicles which will have humans aboard. So off the bat, Soyuz ought to be safer.

    That said, my speculations are aimed at things humans don’t totally control — namely some sort of collision with orbital debris. A passing micrometeorite, a loose camera lens cover, a vagrant screw, Sandra Bullock’s sighs — the possibilities are endless.

  • DavidR2015

    Humans are also good at improvising, unlike computers. So if a Soyuz had serious problems, then the crew would try to get themselves out of it. Still dangerous and unwanted, but the chances of vehicle survival could be better than with a automated vehicle.

  • Christopher James Huff

    Unlikely, given that it was just finishing up boosting into an orbit lower than that of the ISS. Debris in this area has a lifetime of hours to days, even Progress with its much higher ballistic coefficient isn’t going to last long, and Progress had only spent a tiny fraction of an orbit there at the time.

    The event happened right as the third stage was shutting down and Progress was preparing to separate and boost on up to the ISS orbit. Whatever happened did so when a bunch of systems were changing state, after operating as they were for a time with no major problems. This is when problems are most likely to occur. It could be coincidence, but really looks like a third stage shutdown or Progress startup failure.

  • Larry J

    The Russians are masters at reusing systems from one satellite to another. They’ve been doing it for decades. So yes, there are likely several systems that are common between Progress and the Soyuz capsule. I don’t have the time right now to do the research to provide a more definitive answer.
    As of now, we don’t know what caused the failure so it’s hard to say if it was caused by a common system. The Russian experts who’re investigating this have much more information than any of us. Perhaps they’ll be able to tell us more soon.

  • mike_shupp

    Don’t you just hate it when facts trump a lovely theory?

    But okay, you raise good points, and I’ve reset my thoughts accordingly. Thank you.

  • Snofru Chufu