Russia's lost cargo spacecraft will fall to Earth in 2 weeks and burn up in the atmosphere
Tuesday morning, after launching from Russia, the unmanned cargo resupply ship suffered a malfunction when it reached orbit. It’s possible that a couple of its navigational antennas failed to deploy. Roscosmos did not receive any communication or data from the spacecraft after that.
When the glitch first occurred, NASA announced that the Russian space agency would postpone Progress's docking with the ISS until Thursday, allowing flight controllers time to regain control of the capsule. But yesterday morning, NASA relayed word that the Progress was still unresponsive and that a rendezvous with the station wouldn’t be happening at all.
As for the Progress, there’s nothing left to do but burn. Since no one can establish a clear line of communication with the cargo ship, ground control has no way to remotely operate its propulsion module, which is what guides the vehicle. That means eventually the spacecraft’s orbit will degrade, and it will fall toward our planet.
“Any spaceship that is left in an orbit without sufficient propulsion to keep it in orbit tends to degrade over time, The space station, we re-boost it every once and a while. [Engines on the ISS] allow us to adjust its orbit in order to meet an arriving space craft or for debris avoidance maneuvers.”
The Progress will slip closer and closer to our planet within the next two weeks before it’s finally pulled into our atmosphere. No need to cover your head: It's designed to completely burn up during re-entry.