PARIS — Russia’s Roscosmos space agency on July 24 said it had lost control of the Photon-M4 unmanned life- and materials-sciences experiment module launched July 19 but that the 6,840-kilogram module appeared otherwise to be operating normally.

Roscosmos said Photon-M4 was designed to operate autonomously for extended periods and that the many onboard experiments were continuing to function as designed.

Photon-M4, launched aboard a Soyuz rocket from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, is in a 575-kilometer circular orbit inclined at 64.9 degrees relative to the equator. The latest in a series of Bion and Photon capsules, Photon-M4 is designed to operate for about two months before separating from its service module and re-entering the atmosphere to be retrieved for experiment analysis.

Roscosmos said ground operators lost control of Photon-M4 after only a few orbits. Their primary objective now, the agency said, is to restore command-and-control links with the spacecraft.


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Peter B. de Selding was the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews.