Soyuz MS-10 Launch Goes Awry, Crew OK -UPDATED

Soyuz MS-10 Launch Goes Awry, Crew OK -UPDATED

The launch of two new crew members to the International Space Station (ISS) did not go as planned this morning.  Their Soyuz FG rocket malfunctioned after an on-time launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:40 am Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).  Roscosmos cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Hague are OK after their Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft separated from the booster and made a ballistic landing east of the town of Dzhezkazgan (or Zhezkazgan or Jezkazgan), Kazakhstan.  They were rescued and flown back to Baikonur. 

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos tweeted this video of their arrival back at Baikonur about 9:20 am EDT.

Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin has established a State Commission to investigate what went wrong. A video of the launch has been posted on YouTube.  The Russian translator says at about 4:37 “emergency, the failure of the booster.”

What this will mean for ISS operations is unclear.  The Soyuz rocket and Soyuz spacecraft are the only mode of transportation to get crews to and from ISS today.  The new U.S. commercial crew systems are still in development.  NASA is hoping they will be operational sometime next year although it recently announced that the uncrewed test flights of the Boeing and SpaceX systems that were to take place this year have slipped into 2019.

Three crew members are currently aboard the ISS:  NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev.  Their Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft is docked at the ISS.  They can return at any time, but they probably will have their tour of duty extended until replacements can be launched.  The ISS needs constant maintenance.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is in Kazakhstan for the launch and already was scheduled to meet with Rogozin to discuss current and future cooperation.  He tweeted his comments and NASA’s official statement at about 7:00 am EDT.

Russian human spaceflight launch failures are rare, but not unheard of.  On April 5, 1975, Soyuz 18 was launched to the Soviet space station Salyut 4 with cosmonauts Vasiliy Lazarev and Oleg Makarov.  Their Soyuz booster (then referred to as the A-2) malfunctioned and they landed in Siberia just 320 kilometers north of the Chinese border.  It is referred to as the “April 5 Anomaly” or Soyuz 18A.  (The next flight was designated Soyuz 18.)  This occurred three months before the first U.S.-Soviet joint spaceflight, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), but ASTP went ahead as planned.

On September 26, 1983, a Soyuz rocket caught fire just before launch. Two Russian cosmonauts, Vladimir Titov and Gennady Strekalov, were in their Soyuz T-10 spacecraft atop the rocket.  The Soyuz emergency escape tower pulled them safely away from the pad just before the rocket exploded.  They were OK and both later made other spaceflights.

Here are some of the tweets as events unfolded.

Note: This article is being updated as more information becomes available.


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