Russian Spacecraft Fails to Boost ISS into Higher Orbit
This story was updated at 11:34 a.m. EDT.
A Russian spacecraft stopped short of boosting the International Space Station (ISS) into a higher orbit Tuesday when its engines unexpectedly shut down in mid-maneuver, Russian space officials said.
"After the first turn-on of the engines...they turned off spontaneously," a spokesperson for Russia's Federal Space Agency told the Interfax News Agency.
The failed orbital maneuver poses no danger to the ISS or its two-astronaut crew, Expedition 12 commander Bill McArthur and flight engineer Valery Tokarev, and engineers are currently studying the glitch, according to a Federal Space Agency statement.
"There is no forecast at the moment as to when they would try again," NASA spokesperson Rob Navias told SPACE.com from Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas. "[But] there's no urgency to do this."
Russian and U.S. space station flight controllers expected to perform two engine burns Tuesday using the Progress 19 spacecraft's engines evening to raise the ISS into a higher orbit. The spacecraft is docked at the aft end of the station's Zvezda module.
The engine burns, each scheduled to run 11 minutes and 40 seconds, were slated for 5:09 p.m. EDT (2109 GMT) and 6:33 p.m. EDT (2233 GMT), and were expected to raise the ISS into an orbit that hits 224 statute miles (360 kilometers) at its highest point, a bit higher that the station's current orbital peak of 220 statute miles (354 kilometers), NASA officials said Tuesday.
But the Progress engines switched off less than two minutes into the first burn, NASA officials said, adding that there appeared to be a communications problem between the spacecraft's thrusters and Russian navigation computers, which shut down the engines as designed due to the data dropout.
The brief engine burn did accelerate the ISS by about 1.04 feet per second (0.31 meters per second) and raised the lowest point of the station's orbit - 211 miles (339 kilometers) - by about 0.7 miles (1.1 kilometers), according to NASA officials.
Other engines could be used to boost the space station's orbit, but Russian space officials are still evaluating the glitch, the Federal Space Agency said.
Tuesday's altitude-raising maneuver was slated to place the station into the proper position for a second orbital boost later this year that would set up the ISS to receive an unmanned Russian-built cargo ship - Progress 20 - slated to launch toward the space station on Dec. 21, Navias added.
Progress 20 will ferry vital supplies, spare parts and equipment to McArthur and Tokarev, who began their six-month tour aboard the ISS this month.
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