Search of Progress spacecraft debris resumes in Altai

BARNAUL, August 25 (Itar-Tass) — The search for the wreckage of the Progress cargo spacecraft was resumed in Altai at dawn. Fragments of the carrier rocket are being searched for in the Altai Republic where one of the fragments has already been found, as well as in the neighbouring Altai Territory, part of which is included in the potential zone of the “space debris” fall from Baikonur.

The emergencies ministry of the Altai Territory told Itar-Tass that operational headquarters have been established here to control the situation. “The search efforts have not yielded results so far, but they continue,” the ministry said.

The spacecraft’s wreckage has fallen in the Chebalar area near the Bizhelbik village in the south of the Choisky district. However, these are remote taiga areas where it is very difficult to get. In addition, it has been raining heavily in the fall area that hampers the rescuers’ work.

A state of emergency has been introduced in the Choisky district. Other areas of the republic are also being examined.

Residents of the Altai Republic have no reason to panic because of the fall of the Progress cargo spacecraft. The authorities fully control the situation, the republic’s head Alexander Berdnikov said on Wednesday.

“Measures to cordon off the areas of the possible fall of the spacecraft have already been taken, all the related services are involved,” he said. The republic’s government has formed a special group for the emergency management.

Deputy director of the Institute of Water and Ecological Problems of the Siberian Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Alexander Puzanov earlier expressed to Itar-Tass an opinion that fragments of the Progress ship most likely do not pose any risk to the Altai residents. At the Baikonur Cosmodrome he watched the abortive launch of the Soyuz-U carrier rocket with the Progress M-12M cargo spacecraft. “The wreckage fell in the mountains. There is hardly any threat, because the propellant has burnt in the atmosphere,” Puzanov said.

Currently, police forces have limited public access to places of the possible fall of the Progress spacecraft debris in Altai. Law enforcement authorities of the Altai Republic told Itar-Tass on Thursday that the population’s access to the forests near the villages of Bezhelbik, Nyrna, Kuzya is forbidden. Police posts are set up on the Choya-Karakoksha-Uimen motor road.

The state of emergency earlier introduced in the Choisky district of the Altai Republic has now been lifted. Head of the district Alexander Borisov told Itar-Tass on Thursday that “yesterday we introduced the state emergency, but now we have changed it for a heightened danger level,” Borisov said, noting that there have been no reports about injured and fatalities among the population. “Only nature has been affected, but it is yet to be seen how much,” Alexander Borisov said.

Rescuers still cannot get to the supposed site of the Progress spacecraft wreckage fall in the Choisky district of ··the Altai Republic because of bad weather, Alexander Borisov told Itar-Tass. “It is possible to get to this place only by helicopter. Now it’s impossible. It was raining throughout the night and the rain continues now. This kind of weather this time of year is a normal phenomenon for us. As soon as the sky gets clear the rescuers will be able to fly,” Borisov said.

The wreckage of the Progress spacecraft has not been found in the Altai Territory. The territorial emergencies department told Itar-Tass that “there is no wreckage posing a threat to life and health of the region’s residents in our territory. The region has not got in the zone of the fall.” The department noted that despite this, the emergencies services still control the situation.

During launches from Baikonur the fall of fragments of launch vehicles is possible in the Altai Territory in the Zmeinogorsk and Tretyakovsky districts. A wider area for the “space debris” fall is in the Altai Republic. Here, the impact area covers the central parts of the Iolgo, Sumultinsky, Altyntu ridges and upper reaches of the Uimen, Pyzha, Bolshaya Sumulta and Malaya Sumulta Rivers. The zone has a form of an ellipse 70 by 40 kilometres with an area of more than 2,000 kilometres and is used since 1970.

The Republic of Altai department of the Russian Federal Consumer Rights Protection and Human Health Control Service (Rospotrebnadzor) is examining samples of water in the Biya River for the presence of hazardous substances that could get into it because of the Progress spacecraft wreckage fall. Head of the republic’s Rospotrebnadzor department Leonid Shchuchinov said on Thursday that no toxic substances have been found in the waters of the Biya River so far.

Biya flows into the Ob River, a major source of drinking water for many cities in Siberia. Shchuchinov also noted that Rospotrebnadzor experts are ready to go to the places of the debris fall in order to take samples of soil and water, when the exact location of the spacecraft fragments is determined.

The fourth this year Russian cargo spacecraft Progress was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on August 24. The launch of the Soyuz-U carrier rocket with the Progress M-12M spacecraft was carried out by the Russian Space Agency (Roskosmos) crews exactly on schedule – at 17:00 MSK. In two days the spaceship was to deliver to the International Space Station (ISS) more than 2.6 tonnes of cargoes, including food, water, fuel and equipment. The Progress M-12M docking to the ISS was scheduled for 18:40 MSK on August 26.

However, the ship failed to reach the desired orbit.

On Wednesday, Roskosmos said that the abortive launch of a Progress transport ship on August 24 will not affect the operation of the International Space Station and its crew. “The abortive launch of the Soyuz-U carrier rocket and the failure to put the Progress M-12M transport ship to the designated orbit will not influence support the life and work of the crews of the 28/29th expeditions to the ISS,” the agency said. “Stocks of food, water and life support systems allow the crew to operate for a long time,” it said.

A source in rocket and space industry said earlier in the day that the ISS crew has sufficient supply of oxygen, food and other materials. It 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.” Roskosmos also confirmed that the Progress transport ship that blasted off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, has 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,” Roskosmos said.


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