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The failed progress M-27M cargo ship in flight

‘Rocket explosion’ sent Russian spacecraft into tailspin

Progress M-27M spacecraft may have been knocked out of orbit and damaged by an explosion on the carrier rocket

Russian space experts investigating how the Progress M-27M cargo craft went into its fatal tail spin said an explosion as the ship separated from its rocket could be to blame, reports The Telegraph. A cloud of space debris identified by the US airforce indicates some component of the vessel or its Soyuz carrier rocket exploded at the point of separation, damaging navigation equipment and knocking the craft off its intended orbit.

“Given [the altitude of the debris] and the fact that Progress was found 30 to 40 kilometres above its intended orbit, we can say with confidence that there was some kind of blast at the moment of separation from the third stage of the rocket,” an agency spokesman told Interfax on Thursday.Progress M-27M, a cargo vessel carrying nearly three tons of supplies for the International Space Station, span out of control shortly after launch from the Baikonur cosmodrom in Kazakhstan on Tuesday.

After a day of failed attempts to regain control, Russia’s Federal Space Agency, Roskosmos, said on Wednesday that the ship had entered an “uncontrolled descent” from which it was impossible to rescue it. By midday GMT on Thursday it was 164 miles above the South Pacific, travelling at more than 16,000 miles per hour. It is expected to to burn up when it re-enters the atmosphere sometime next week.

The potential failure of a Soyuz rocket, the mainstay of Russia’s space industry, has cast a shadow over future missions including a manned flight due to blast off from Baikonur on May 26. Investigators have been ordered to submit their conclusions by May 13 so a decision can be taken on whether it is safe for the mission to go ahead. Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister with responsibility for Russia’s space industry, is due to convene a committee to investigate the accident today.

The failure of the mission is estimated to have cost Roskosmos £25 million. Agency director Igor Komarov said on Wednesday that most of that money will be recovered from insurance.

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