Friday, 15 February, 2019

Astronauts Make Emergency Landing in Failed Russian Space Launch

Astronauts Set To Fly Again After Escaping Mid Air Failure Russian Official Soyuz Spacecraft. Credit Wikipedia Commons
Theresa Hayes | 13 October, 2018, 08:10

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin are in what NASA director Jim Bridenstine described as "good condition" after surviving an emergency landing after a booster failure on a Russian Soyuz rocket Thursday.

Jim Bridenstine spoke to reporters at the United States embassy in Moscow a day after a Soyuz rocket failure forced Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and USA astronaut Nick Hague to make an emergency landing shortly after takeoff in Kazakhstan.

The officials can not yet identify the chief cause of the Soyuz failure, aside from the fact that components of different stages of the rocket collided with each other.

And with the news the crew - Alexey Ovchinin, a Russian cosmonaut, and Nick Hague an American astronaut - are in good health according to officials, attention has somewhat inevitably turned to the more humorous side of the misfire. An emergency landing protocol was initiated and their capsule landed in a field in Kazakhstan.

The booster carrying them failed within two minutes of flight, forcing both astronauts to make a "steep ballistic descent", NASA said. He added that the president is receiving regular updates about the situation.

Roscosmos, a Russian state corporation, and NASA on Thursday said the three-stage Soyuz booster rocket, which propelled their landing capsule, suffered an emergency shutdown of its second stage.

The occupants of the capsule located at the tip of the rocket were scheduled to undertake a six-hour journey to the International Space Station (ISS), where they would meet Expedition 57 crewmates Alexander Gerst, Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, and Sergey Valerievich.

NASA and Roscosmos said search-and-rescue teams were in contact with the crew and en route to the landing location. Dzhezkazgan is about 450 kilometres northeast of Baikonur.

Thursday's accident was the first serious launch problem experienced by a manned Soyuz space mission since 1983, when a crew narrowly escaped before a launch pad explosion. An investigation is underway, and Bridenstine said he doesn't expect the next mission taking a crew to the space station in December to be delayed.

Russia's rockets are now the only way to get astronauts to the space station, but all manned flights have been out on hold in the wake of Thursday's accident.

The current space station crew of an American, a Russian and a German was scheduled to return to Earth in December after a six-month mission. Russian Federation stands to lose that monopoly in the coming years with the arrival of the SpaceX's Dragon v2 and Boeing's Starliner crew capsules.

This type of Soyuz rocket has been flying people to space since 2001, and until now, it has never failed, according to Space News.

While the two men landed safely, the aborted mission dealt another blow to the troubled Russian space program.

Had the launch gone smoothly, Ovchinin and Hague would have reached the space station later today.

Malfunctions causing ballistic re-entry have occurred a number of times with Russia's series of Soyuz rockets - although this is the most severe in decades.

Glitches found in Russia's Proton and Soyuz rockets in 2016 were traced to manufacturing flaws at the plant in Voronezh.