Manned Soyuz space mission aborts during launch

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Soyuz MS-10, a manned Russian space mission bound for the International Space Station (ISS) for a six-month stay, was forced to abort by a booster rocket failure Thursday morning. Rescue teams successfully recovered both crew members, Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and United States astronaut Nick Hague, shortly after they landed safely in Kazakhstan.

Soyuz MS-10 shortly after liftoff on Thursday morning; the mission aborted minutes later.
Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls.
Ovchinin and Hague reunite with their families after returning to Baikonur following a launch abort.
Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

About two minutes after launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which took place at 8:40 UTC on Thursday, a problem arose with the rocket boosters attached to the Soyuz rocket, during the process of booster separation. As the abort rocket system had been jettisoned a few moments earlier per normal launch procedure, the crew used the Soyuz capsule's steering rockets to direct the spacecraft into a ballistic descent trajectory. During the descent, Ovchinin and Hague reportedly were subjected to forces of six to seven times Earth's gravity. Ovchinin and Hague were safely recovered along with the spacecraft's descent module about 12 miles (19 km) east of Jezkazgan, Kazakhstan, and 250 miles (402 km) from the launch site, approximately an hour and a half after lift-off. Both were taken to a hospital in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, for overnight observation as a precaution.

The incident, which is only the third mishap involving a manned Soyuz rocket since 1975 and the first since 1983, neither of which resulted in a fatality, comes nearly a month and a half after ISS mission controllers detected an air leak aboard the Soyuz MS-09 capsule presently docked at the ISS. Astronauts later found the leak to be the result of a drilled hole in the capsule's wall before repairing it. Shortly after Thursday's abort, the Russian government announced the formation of a state commission to investigate the launch failure.

Director General of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin tweeted, "To clarify the cause of the accident at the Soyuz-FG LV, by my decision, a state commission was formed [...] Telemetry is being studied. Rescue services work [sic] from the first second of the accident. The emergency rescue system of the Soyuz-MS ship worked normally. Crew rescued."

Ovchinin and Hague were due to join the crew of Expedition 57 aboard the ISS in low Earth orbit, which would have brought the current ISS crew from three to five. The next manned Soyuz launch to the ISS, Soyuz MS-11, was originally slated for December, though it is now unclear when that mission will be launched, pending the Russian investigation.


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