Russian unmanned spacecraft fails to dock with space station

WASHINGTON • An unmanned Russian spacecraft containing a humanoid robot named Fedor has failed to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) as scheduled yesterday.

The docking had been set for around 0530 GMT (1.30pm, Singapore time) after a two-day flight and 34 orbits around the earth.

Nasa said that the automated approach was aborted after "the craft was unable to lock onto its target" at the space station and that Russian flight controllers were assessing the next steps.

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft was launched from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan last Thursday on a flight to test out a new booster rocket.

In addition to putting Fedor in space, the non-human flight was designed to test the new rocket's upgraded flight and engine systems before possible manned missions to the space station using the rocket next year.

TASS news agency quoted the head of the Russian side of the ISS, Mr Vladimir Soloviov, saying "telemetry analysis showed there were failings with radio equipment" on the station.

"It can be corrected," he said, adding that part of the equipment would be replaced and another attempt at docking made between 0500 GMT and 0600 GMT tomorrow.

The ISS, used to conduct experiments that could be impossible on earth, is mostly a collaboration of Russian and US crews, and represents one of the strongest ties between the rival great powers.

The robot, Skybot F-850, also known by the male Russian name Fedor, is designed to conduct operations that would be "especially dangerous for a human", Russian space agency Roscosmos said in a statement.

DPA, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 25, 2019, with the headline 'Russian unmanned spacecraft fails to dock with space station'. Print Edition | Subscribe