The Russian space agency said the Progress M-12M cargo ship was not placed in the correct orbit by its rocket and fell back to Earth.
The vessel was carrying three tonnes of supplies for the ISS astronauts.
The ISS relies on robotic freighters now with the retirement of the US space shuttle fleet.
The PR people say that there are good levels of supplies onboard the ISS at the moment so there is no immediate concern about the welfare of the astronauts.
There is a bit of angst floating around about the Soyuz-U used to blast the Progress freighters into orbit.
This model is very similar to the Soyuz-FG rocket that is used to lift manned capsules to the station. Losing 3 tonnes of supplies is one thing, but if highly trained astronauts are going to start getting ‘lost’ then Moscow we have a problem.
Until the cause of Wednesday’s failure is firmly established, it is unlikely the next astronaut flight to the ISS, due on 22 September, will be allowed to proceed.
This means the current crew in the ISS are goingto have to sit tight for a while longer.
The Progress mission was the 44th such cargo delivery flight to the space station.
Officials reported the ship coming down in Russia’s Altai province, some 1,500km northeast of the launch site. A loud explosion was heard in the region and there were reports of windows being blown out, but it is not thought there were any injuries on the ground as a result of wreckage coming out of the sky.
The space station is currently manned by the Expedition 28 crew. This is commanded by Russian Andrey Borisenko. His flight engineers are Satoshi Furukawa (Japan), Mike Fossum (US), Ron Garan (US), Alexander Samokutyaev (Russia), and Sergei Volkov (Russia).
The astronauts have plenty of supplies onboard. Last month’s shuttle flight delivered sufficient food stores to maintain an ISS crew for a year. Further re-supply flights are planned by Japan and Europe using their robotic freighters early next year.