Russian cargo ship destroyed on way to International Space Station

The unmanned supply ship was carrying rocket fuel, food, water and a new spacesuit

Russian cargo ship destroyed on way to International Space Station

Image: Roscosmos via Twitter

A Russian cargo ship bound for the International Space Station has been destroyed shortly after launch from Kazakhstan.

The unmanned supply ship was carrying rocket fuel, food, water and a new spacesuit when contact was lost six minutes after take-off and two minutes before it was due to arrive in orbit.

A statement on Russia's Roscosmos space agency said problems occurred "about 190km above the rugged, uninhabited, mountainous territory of the Republic of Tyva and most of the fragments were burned in the dense layers of the atmosphere".

The loss of the cargo ship, which had been scheduled to arrive at the ISS on Saturday, will "not affect the normal operations of the ISS systems and the subsistence of the station's crew", the statement continued.

This incident is the second failed launch of a Progress cargo ship in under two years. In April 2015 a Progress ship disintegrated as it fell to Earth, a failure Russia blamed on a problem with a Soyuz rocket.

Russia subsequently suspended all space travel for nearly three months and a group of astronauts were forced to spend an extra month on the ISS. 

The country sends at least three such supply ships every year to the space station, after which they plummet back to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere above the Pacific Ocean.