MOSCOW, April 28 (UPI) -- A Russian resupply capsule, launched early Tuesday and headed for the International Space Station, is currently spinning out of control after its telemetry system experienced a series of technical setbacks.
The ISS Progress 59, an unmanned Russian cargo craft, blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at just after 3 a.m. EST on Tuesday morning. The launch was successful, but not long after the capsule separated from the rocket, engineers began having trouble communicating with the capsule's various control systems.
Russian engineers attempted to issue commands as the craft orbited over a series of ground-based communication outposts. But their orders were not received by the craft. As a result, the capsule's navigational antennas failed to deploy, and manifolds in the propulsion system were not properly pressurized.
A camera installed on the craft shows the capsule to be caught in a dizzying spin as it orbits the Earth. Engineers are trying to issue commands to control the spin but are so far having no luck.
"As Progress passed over Russian ground stations, the Russian flight control team issued commands through the telemetry system onboard the spacecraft in an attempt to receive confirmation that navigation and rendezvous systems had deployed," NASA officials explained in a blog update. "But, due to sporadic telemetry from Progress 59, inconclusive data, and trouble uplinking commands to the spacecraft, controllers were unable to confirm the status of the systems."
The capsule's docking plans have been postponed indefinitely as officials in Russia try to work out the communication issues.
The capsule is controlled by what's is called the Kurs automated navigation system. A backup system, called the Telerobotically Operated Rendezvous Unit, allows astronauts onboard ISS to override the primary controls and manually steer the craft to safety during docking.
The docking was originally scheduled to happen today, after a four-orbit fast-track trip to the space station. When the first problems surfaced, that plan was scratched for the slower two-day, 34-orbit rendezvous flightpath. But if Russian officials can't control the craft's spin, a docking may not happen at all.
For now, the current crop of ISS crew members are safe and well stocked. Oxygen and water supplies are mostly recycled, and they have more than four months of food supplies already stored aboard the space station.