NEW YORK — An unmanned Russian cargo spacecraft launched toward the international space station this morning, but once in orbit, the capsule encountered a problem, officials said.
The Progress 51 supply spacecraft failed to deploy an antenna used for navigation after lifting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:12 a.m. EDT. Specifically, the antenna is used to “measure the orientation” of the ship, NASA officials said.
Ground controllers are now working to assess and fix the problem.
“Update: Once in orbit, an antenna used as a navigational aid on the Progress did not deploy,” officials from NASA wrote on Twitter after the glitch was discovered. “Russian ground controllers are assessing a fix.”
Progress is scheduled to dock with the international space station April 26 at 8:26 a.m. EDT. While some Progress spacecraft can launch and dock on the same day, that was not possible with this particular launch due to orbital dynamics, so the vehicle will take two days to catch up to the international space station in orbit.
It is unclear whether the scheduled docking time will be affected by the glitch.
“The Russian flight controllers are continuing to monitor the spacecraft and to determine if there is a way to get the antenna deployed,” NASA spokesman Josh Byerly wrote in an email. “They are also analyzing ways to dock the Progress to the station in its current configuration, including having the crew perform a manual docking.”
Progress is slated to deliver 800 kilograms of propellant, 26 kilograms of air, 21 kilograms of oxygen, 420 kilograms of water and 1519 kilograms of hardware for experiments, spare parts and other supplies to the residents of the space station, NASA officials said.
Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield currently commands the six-person crew that staffs the $100 billion orbiting laboratory. NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn as well as Russian cosmonauts Roman Romanenko, Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin round out the Expedition 35 crew.
Hadfield, Romanenko and Marshburn are expected to return to Earth in May after six months onboard the station, at which point Vinogradov will take over as the commander of the Expedition 36 mission.