The unmanned Russian cargo spacecraft that malfunctioned causing the Russian space program to lose control of the craft as it made its way to the International Space Station last week, will fall to Earth later this evening.
The spacecraft, known as Progress 59 M-27M was expected to fall to the Earth sometime between 6:13 p.m. ET and 9:51 p.m. ET on Thursday, according to the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
The ship is expected to burn up almost completely in the Earth's atmosphere and the Russian space agency expects that only small pieces will reach the surface.
Scientists believe that these leftover fragments will be similar in size and nature as those that fall to Earth when the Progress spacecraft normally enters the atmosphere after it makes a successful delivery to the International Space Station.
According to the space debris team from the European Space Agency, the likelihood of the Progress spacecraft falling to Earth over North America or Europe has dropped significantly. The ESA has reported that the craft was spinning very quickly at about once every 1.8 seconds.
As of now, the satellite tracking site Satview predicts that the craft will reenter the atmosphere over western China at around 8 p.m. ET today.
Progress 59 M-27M was originally launched on April 28 and contained 2.8 tons of supplies for astronauts orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station, including both food and fuel.
However, not long after launch, flight controllers lost control of the ship after it entered the wrong orbit and began spinning "at a rather significant rate." The ship wasn't transmitting data and multiple attempts were made to reestablish contact with the spacecraft in an attempt to salvage the mission. Unfortunately, after a day the Russian space agency declared the spacecraft a loss and gave up trying to control it.
Once that happened, it was just a matter of time before the Progress made its uncontrolled return to Earth resulting in both its destruction and the destruction of all the supplies that were onboard the doomed supply craft. Astronauts onboard the ISS are in no danger, as officials have said they still have plenty of supplies to keep the station running even without this resupply mission.
"We should be OK. The program plans for these kinds of things to happen. They're very unfortunate when they do," astronaut Scott Kelly said from the ISS. "The important thing is hardware can be replaced."
This is the second cargo ship lost in the past half year. The next planned supply mission will be undertaken by the private company SpaceX and is set to blast off in June.