Failed Russian spaceship falling fast, should burn up Thursday

CAPE CANAVERAL (Reuters) - A Russian spaceship on a failed cargo run to the International Space Station is falling fast and expected to hit Earth's atmosphere and burn up late on Thursday, satellite tracking websites showed.

The Progress-59 freighter was launched on April 28 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, but never made to the station, a US$100 billion research laboratory that flies about 250 miles (418 km) above Earth.

Ground controllers lost contact with the capsule, which was loaded with more than three tons of food, fuel and supplies for the station's six-member crew, shortly after it separated from the upper-stage of its Soyuz launcher.

The tumbling spacecraft is expected to be tugged back into Earth's atmosphere around 9.36 pm EDT on Thursday (9.36am Friday Singapore time) as it passes over China, the US Air Force's contractor-operated website showed.

Another prediction by the Russian space agency Roscosmos shows the capsule falling out of orbit between 6.13 p.m. EDT and 9.51 p.m. EDT on Thursday.

The spaceship and its cargo should incinerate in the atmosphere, Roscosmos said in a statement.

"Only a few small pieces of structural elements could reach the planet's surface" - similar to what happens at the end of routine Progress cargo missions, Roscosmos added.

Russia has flow 62 Progress spacecraft to the station to deliver modules and cargo, two of which have not been successful.

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