Gas generator failure blamed for Progress transport ship accident

MOSCOW, August 29 (Itar-Tass) —— The Progress M-12M transport ship accident on August 24 was caused by a malfunction in the gas generator in the Soyuz carrier rocket’s third stage engine, Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov told Itar-Tass on Monday, August 29.

“Members of the emergency commission have determined the cause of the failure of the Soyuz carrier rocket’s third stage engine. It is a malfunction in the engine’s gas generator,” he said.

Meanwhile, more aircraft will be sent to the Progress spaceship fall area in the Altai region’s mountains to look for debris.

Up to date, the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) has been conducting the search using only one Mi-8 helicopter belonging to the local Emergencies Ministry.

“The number of aircraft will be increased. This will allow us to enlarge the search area. We will use all aircraft available in the region,” Alexander Puzanov, head of the Centre for Monitoring Carrier Rocket Debris Fallout Area in Siberia, told Itar-Tass.

The search will resume on Tuesday, August 30, if the weather allows. “We could not take off today. The weather is very bad. No search has been conducted,” he said.

Daily soil and water sampling in the debris fallout area show the absence of toxic substances.

“The working hypothesis has proved viable so far. Everything burnt up in the air before reaching the ground,” Puzanov said.

Roscosmos confirmed that this year’s fourth Russian Progress transport ship that blasted off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on August 24 had failed to reach the target orbit.

“According to preliminary information, during the launch of a Soyuz-U carrier rocket with a Progress M-12M transport ship aboard on August 24, the engine malfunctioned in the third stage on the 325th second, which resulted in its emergency deactivation,” Roscosmos said.

“The transport ship Progress M-12M has not been put to the designated orbit,” it said.

Earlier a source in rocket and space industry said that “after 350 seconds of the flight a drop in pressure in the fuel tanks was registered, after which contact with the spacecraft was lost”.

The Mission Control Centre declined to comment on this information.

It said that at an altitude of about 200 kilometres Progress M-12M separated from the Soyuz-U carrier rocket and flew on to the ISS along the preset trajectory with the parameters of the orbit being as follows: apogee 245 kilometres, perigee 193 kilometres, orbit inclination 51.66 degrees, orbiting period 88.59 minutes.

The transport ship was to deliver more than 2,6 tonnes of supplies, including food, water, fuel, equipment, and presents, to the International Space Station (ISS).

Space Troops spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Vitaly Vyatkin quoted Space Troops Commander Oleg Ostapenko as saying that “the abortive launch of a Soyuz-U carrier rocket with a Progress transport ship from Baikonur has not affected the preparations for the launch of a Soyuz-2 carrier rocket with a GLONASS satellite from Plesetsk scheduled for August 26.”

A source in rocket and space industry said that the ISS crew has sufficient supply of oxygen, food and other materials.

Currently, there is a crew of six working aboard the ISS: Andrei Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyayev and Sergei Volkov of Russia, Ronald Garan and Michael Fossum of the NASA, and Satoshi Furukawa of Japan.

Borisenko, Samokutyayev and Garan are to return to Earth aboard a Soyuz TMA-21 ship in September.

This is the fourth transport ship launch this year. The fifth one is scheduled for autumn.

Initially it was planned that after the end of U.S. space shuttle flights, Russia would send 4 manned and 6 transport ships to the ISS annually, but rocket and space industry specialists said the sixth transport ship might be launched to the ISS early next year.

“This year Russian ships, the European ATV, the Japanese HTV and the last shuttles brought all the necessary supplies to the station and there is no need to send one more transport ship at the end of the year,” the Mission Control Centre said.

However no postponement has been officially announced so far.

This is the second abortive space launch in Russia over the past seven days. On August 18, the telecommunication satellite Express-AM-4 was lost.

On February 1, a Rokot carrier rocket launched from Plesetsk failed to put the military satellite Geo IK-2 to the designated orbit.

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