Monday, 19 November, 2018

Russian Federation blames rocket failure on mistake during assembly

Russia's Mission to ISS May Launch on December 3 Report Russian official says Soyuz rocket failure caused by an errant sensor
Theresa Hayes | 01 November, 2018, 17:22

The executive director of the Russian space agency said today its investigation found the failure was caused by a malfunctioning sensor.

Russian officials believe the component was damaged during assembly.

The incident, on 11 October, was the first serious launch problem by a manned Soyuz space mission since 1983.

Russian space officials plan to conduct two other unmanned Soyuz launches before launching a crew to the space station.

Sergei Krikalyov, a senior Roscosmos official, was quoted by state news agency Tass as saying the next manned launch had been planned for mid-December, but that Russian Federation was trying to bring the date forward so that the ISS is not briefly left without a crew.

The findings of an official investigation into the incident were presented at a press conference on Thursday.

The trio had originally been scheduled to blast off on December 20, but had their trip brought forward after the failed October 11 launch with Russia's Aleksey Ovchinin and NASA's Nick Hague on board.

What happened during the flight?

Russian Federation suspended all launches after the accident on October 11, unprecedented for Russia's post-Soviet manned launches, that saw the rocket fail minutes after blast-off.

The malfunction led to one of the four boosters on the first stage failing to detach correctly and colliding with a fuel tank of the second stage, which exploded.

Despite their dramatic descent and landing, both men were recovered unharmed, the space agencies said.

Krikalyov blamed a "malfunction" of the sensor separating the first and second stages of the rocket for the problem and said that efforts were being taken to ensure the safety of future flights.

"The reason for the abnormal separation. was due to a deformation of the stem of the contact separation sensor.", Skorobogatov told reporters.

"It has been proven, fully confirmed, that this happened specifically because of this sensor, and that could only have happened during the package's assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome", he said.

Alexander Lopatin, the deputy head of Roscosmos, said that "appropriate law enforcement authorities" will now look into who was responsible for the assembly error.

Roscosmos immediately set about investigating the launch failure, under time pressure because the current ISS crew had a January deadline to return to Earth.