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Progress 44 accident and its consequences for Space Station

Copyright ESA

The six astronauts on the International Space Station are safe and continuing their normal work after the loss of their space-bound cargo craft on 24 August.

While the cause of the accident is being sought by a Russian commission, the Station partners are preparing for several scenarios to ensure the safety of the crew and the orbital outpost. The Progress 44 freighter, carrying 2670 kg of cargo for the Station, failed to reach proper orbit after the premature shutdown of its third-stage engine 325 seconds after launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The remnants of the stage and Progress fell back to Earth from an altitude of about 200 km over the Altai Republic in southern Siberia.

Soyuz-U launch sequence

No remnants have been found so far and it is possible that the Progress and its third stage – both loaded with fuel and oxygen – burned up in the atmosphere. The search crews are still probing the large areas of difficult terrain in severe weather conditions looking for evidence.

Launches of Soyuz rockets have been suspended until the cause of the engine malfunction is identified.

ESA recognises the vast experience of its Russian partners [...]