Russia's Mission Control has failed to stabilize a cargo spacecraft spinning out of control in orbit, but says it has not yet given up on saving the unmanned ship, which could hurtle into an uncontrolled descent back to Earth within days.
The Progress M-27M was launched Tuesday and was scheduled to dock at the International Space Station (ISS) six hours later to deliver 2.5 tons of supplies, including food and fuel.
But flight controllers were unable to receive data from the spacecraft, which had entered the wrong orbit.
Mission Control spokesman Sergei Talalasov told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday that flight controllers were still trying to restore communication with Progress.
Russia's space agency and NASA both said the six crew members on board the ISS have sufficient supplies and are in no danger.
However, if contact cannot be made with Progress, it could be just days before the unmanned spaceship runs out of fuel and starts an uncontrolled descent back into the atmosphere.
“Russian flight controllers plan for another attempt to communicate with a cargo resupply spacecraft bound for the station. The next attempt to link with the spacecraft comes at 8:50 p.m. EDT Tuesday (0050 GMT Wednesday),” the U.S. space agency said.
During the spacecraft's first four orbits, Russian flight control teams tried to make contact but were unsuccessful. The exact nature of the technical glitch was still unclear.
“An unspecified problem prevented Russian flight controllers from determining whether navigational antennas had deployed and whether fuel system manifolds had pressurized as planned,” NASA said.
Russia's Mission Control website said that the ship was slated to dock with the ISS, where the international crew of six people awaits the cargo, on April 30.
The Progress was carrying “1,940 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen, 926 pounds of water, and 3,128 pounds of spare parts, supplies and scientific experiment hardware,” NASA said.
An engine mishap on a similar Progress flight in 2011 led to a complete loss of communication and failure to reach the target orbit.
Shortly after launch, it crashed into Siberia, making it one of Russia's biggest space setbacks.
Three or four Progress cargo ships are launched every year bringing necessities such as oxygen, fuel and food supplies to the orbiting laboratory. After completing their missions, they usually fall into the Pacific Ocean.