Cargo ship on route to International Space Station burns in atmosphere

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A recent cargo shipment to the International Space Station  on the 1st of December was destroyed in the atmosphere shortly after launch.

The unmanned cargo ship was launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan. Seconds after launching, Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, lost contact with the Progress freighter.

Due to an anomaly, the ship burned in the atmosphere, destroying the 2.4 tonnes of fuel, equipment and food it was carrying. Fortunately, according to NASA, the astronauts currently on the International Space Station have sufficient resources.

The failed shipment did not affect either the ISS or the crew’s operations. A second cargo ship from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is set to arrive with fuel and supplies on the 9th of December.It is not yet clear what caused the anomaly, and Roscosmos are investigating the issue.

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This is not the first time technical problems have hindered a launch. In 2015, a problem with a rocket on a cargo resupply launch halted the mission.

For the next three months, Russian space travel was put on hold. A thorough investigation took place to prevent any freighters using the same rockets from being damaged. Technical difficulties are common in space travel missions, therefore the teams that organize launches must be prepared.

Russia and Japan are the only two nations that are capable of sending supplies to the ISS. Three or four cargo ships are sent from Russia to the International Space Station annually with supplies.

Previously, shipments could be launched from space agencies in Europe and in the US. In 2014, Europe completed its final cargo mission.

Two American commercial space companies have also previously held contracts to resupply the International Space Station. Each cargo delivery is completed with the use of an unmanned vehicle, designed to burn up in the atmosphere upon reentry.

SpaceX’s Dragon is the only freighter designed to be able to return to Earth without being destroyed.