HOUSTON – Russia’s federal space agency will delay near-term International Space Station Soyuz crew and Progress resupply launch and landing operations following the recent failed Progress M-27M cargo mission.

That incident has been linked to a damaged third-stage propulsion system, according to preliminary findings of a state commission.
The May 12 announcement from Roscosmos came on the eve of the planned descent of NASA astronaut Terry Virts, the current commander of the six-person ISS, the European Space Agency’s Samantha Cristoforetti and Russia’s Anton Shkaplerov. Their Soyuz TMA-15M capsule was to depart the ISS Russian segment May 13 and descend under parachute into central Kazakhstan for a touchdown  just after 9 p.m. EDT, ending a 171-day mission to the orbiting science laboratory.

Their return has been tentatively rescheduled for early June, Roscosmos says.

The launching of replacement ISS crewmembers – NASA’s Kjell Lindgren, Japan’s Kimiya Yui and Russia’s Oleg Kononenko aboard the Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan – will be rescheduled from May 26 to late July, according to Roscosmos.

The next Russian resupply mission, Progress 60, is tentatively slated for early July.

Russia’s U.S., European, Japanese and Canadian partners agreed to the changes on May 12, according to a NASA statement.
The Russian state commission leading the investigation into the failed April 28 launching of Progress M-27M, also known as Progress 59, will complete its work on May 22.

The launching proceeded normally until the troubled separation of the Soyuz 2.1A third stage with the Progress capsule, according to preliminary findings presented May 12 by Russian state commission chairman  Alexander Ivanov. An incorrectly timed separation placed the resupply capsule 40 km (25 mi.) upstream and 20 km (12.5 mi.) below the intended trajectory.

The “unintended” separation and shutdown of the third-stage engine were followed by pressure losses in the third-stage oxidizer and fuel tanks, according to the findings.

The final phase of the investigation will involve computational and theoretical analysis of the events to more fully explain the cause and sequence of events, the commission says.

The Progress 59’s near 9-min. climb to orbit was to initiate a four-orbit, 6-hr. sprint to the ISS for the delivery of just more than 6,100 lb. of propellant, compressed oxygen, crew and medical supplies, spare parts and research gear. Ground control teams reported a successful deployment of the power-generating solar arrays but broken telemetry, with indications that two KURS radar antennas required for the automated docking failed to deploy as well as the propellant leaks.

On April 29, Russian flight controllers called off further efforts to regain control of the spinning cargo capsule. The resupply capsule made an uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere late May 7.

NASA said the spacecraft was carrying just more than 250 lb. of U.S. equipment, including clothing for Lindgren and Yui.
Activities in the U.S. segment of ISS should be largely unaffected by the Progress loss, according to statements from a NASA spokesman following the mishap and confirmed by the European Space Agency. The ISS is stocked with sufficient  provisions until next fall, NASA said May 12.

The current ISS crew includes U.S. and Russian astronauts Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka, who docked in late March. Kelly and Kornienko, who docked for an 11- to 12-month stay, are subjects in a collection of joint experiments intended to reveal the physical and psychological challenges of long-duration spaceflight.

The next U.S. resupply mission, the seventh launched aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule, is targeted for June 19. It is to deliver the first of two NASA and Boeing-developed International Docking Adapters scheduled for installation during spacewalks by Kelly and Lindgren. The adapters will equip two former space shuttle docking ports for use by future U.S. commercial crew vehicles expected to begin operations by late 2017.