Skip to main content

International Space Station supply craft is spinning out of control in space

International Space Station supply craft is spinning out of control in space

Share this story

There's been a bit of a hiccup in NASA and Roscosmos' plan to restock the International Space Station with more than 6,000 pounds of supplies: the vessel carrying it all isn't entirely responsive and has started spinning around as it orbits Earth. The troubles mean that flight controllers have had to indefinitely postpone when the cargo ship, Progress 59, will dock with the ISS. Progress 59 is bringing the crew food, fuel, personal supplies, and supplies needed for experiments.

The launch went fine, but systems appeared to fail after separation

Though the launch itself went fine, flight controllers in Russia — where the craft was launched from — received what NASA calls "conflicting information" about Progress 59's navigational antennas and propulsion system after separation and as it reached preliminary orbit. They then fell back on a plan to dock on Thursday, rather than docking this morning. That plan was postponed even further as the flight control team tried and failed to send commands to the craft during passes overhead. They'll have another chance to connect this evening.

Video was received from a camera onboard Progress 59, showing the craft in what NASA has described as a "slow spin" — though viewers may still find it quite dizzying. When the next series of passes occur, Russian flight controllers will try to recover their ability to send commands to the craft. NASA says that they are currently analyzing data, troubleshooting, and drawing up a plan on how to move forward.

NASA says that everyone onboard the ISS is currently safe and has sufficient supplies — enough, apparently, to last "well beyond" the next planned supply mission in June. "The spacecraft was not carrying any supplies critical for the United States Operating Segment (USOS) of the station," NASA writes in an update. Supplies included: "1,940 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen, 926 pounds of water, and 3,128 pounds of spare parts, supplies, and scientific experiment hardware." There were also specific US supplies that included "spare parts for the station’s environmental control and life support system, backup spacewalk hardware, and crew clothing." All of this, NASA notes, is replaceable. The next craft will be carrying around 5,000 pounds of supplies.

Update April 28th, 2PM ET: this story has been updated to include statements from NASA on the crew's safety, their existing supplies, the following resupply mission, and what was carried on Progress 59. This story has also been updated to specifically note Roscosmos' involvement.

Vox Video: Time lapse of Earth from the International Space Station