Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, decided to seek NASA’s assistance due to the complexity of the issue, Izvestia daily reports. The investigation has been underway for over a month, but reportedly has not yielded any definitive answers that would explain the mishap.
The accident occurred 382 seconds into the flight at an altitude of 190 kilometers (118 miles) over a rocky unpopulated area in the Russian Republic of Tyva. Most of the wreckage burned up in the atmosphere, although some of the fragments landed some 60-70 kilometers west of Tyva’s capital city, Kyzyl.
One of the reasons the investigation has bogged down is that the chain of events leading to the accident took place in an extremely short period of time, Vladimir Solntsev, head of Energia Corporation, which produces the Progress cargo ships and is part of Roscosmos, told the daily.
“The accident is quite complex from the point of understanding of processes, that occurred within a very short timeframe. We are talking milliseconds here,” Solntsev said, adding that the investigators are entering uncharted territory due to these specific circumstances. A millisecond is a thousandth of a second.
“We have invited our American partners from NASA to the study of the causes of the accident. They told us that they also had never experienced any accidents in history that would have occurred within such a short timeframe,” he said, adding that he hopes the cooperation will be mutually beneficial.
NASA has confirmed to Izvestia that members of the agency’s team responsible for cooperation at the International Space Station (ISS) are engaged in the efforts to determine the cause of the accident, though it did not specify the scope of their involvement. The agency said that it decided to take part in the investigation because it concerns the safety of both Russian and American crew members at the ISS. If needed, NASA reportedly said it is ready to employ extra resources from other subdivisions to push the investigation forward.
The cargo spaceship, which took off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, was set to deliver 2.6 tons of fuel, food, and supplies, as well as New Year presents to the ISS. The data received from the spacecraft indicate that something went wrong during the separation of the rocket’s third stage. One of theories is that the third stage’s engines or oxidizer malfunctioned.
A source in space industry told RIA Novosti that a planned launch of Progress MS-05 space freighter to the ISS scheduled for February 2, 2017, may be postponed, pending completion of the investigation.