Soyuz MS-25 Crew Launch Aborts Seconds Before Liftoff

Soyuz MS-25 Crew Launch Aborts Seconds Before Liftoff

Russia’s launch of a three-person crew to the International Space Station aborted 20 seconds before liftoff this morning. While last-minute launch aborts are not uncommon with U.S. rockets, they are extremely rare with Russia’s systems. The three crew members —  a Russian, an American, and a Belarussian spaceflight participant — are safe and Roscosmos is assessing when to try again. The next opportunity is Saturday, March 23, at 8:36 am ET

The countdown for the Soyuz 2.1a rocket appeared to be going smoothly towards a planned launch at 9:21 am EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan when computers automatically stopped the launch at T-20 seconds.

NASA TV provided live coverage with an interpreter translating information from Russia’s mission control and NASA’s Rob Navias providing commentary from Johnson Space Center.

The first of two umbilicals separated as planned at T-30 seconds, but an automated system aborted the launch 10 seconds later.

Soyuz MS-25 still on the launch pad after an abort at T-20 seconds, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. March 21, 2024. Screengrab.

The Russian interpreter had just said “auto sequence initiated, command has been issued” when she suddenly relayed: “Attention. Attention on the launch. Automatic abort of launch has gone through. Prepare to stand down for 24 hours.”

Navias then repeated that the launch was aborted.

Roscosmos soon posted on Telegram that the cause was a voltage problem in ground support equipment. Russian space enthusiast Katya Pavlushchenko posted it on X.

NASA later confirmed on the NASA ISS blog that the scrub was made automatically “by ground support equipment due to low voltage reading in the Soyuz rocket electrical system.”  NASA did not confirm the intent to launch on Saturday, saying instead that a decision is “pending completion of State Commission review” referring to Russia’s standard procedure for approving launches.

After the scrub, NASA Mission Control quickly contacted the ISS crew to alert them to the change in plans: “Our Soyuz launch was commanded aborted about T-20 seconds. Crew is safe on the pad. We’re standing by for more info and we’ll get you what we have when we have it. So you guys know that means it’s gonna be a few days before you see some visitors up there.”

The crew — Oleg Novitsky and Tracy Dyson from the Roscosmos and NASA astronaut corps, and Marina Vasilevskaya, a spaceflight participant from Belarus — exited the spacecraft as soon as it was safe to do so and returned to the cosmonaut hotel at the Cosmodrome.

This is Novitsky’s fourth spaceflight and Dyson’s third. Vasilevskaya is a flight attendant for Belavia Airlines in Belarus who was selected after a nationwide contest to become the first Belarussian in space.

Soyuz MS-25 crew: Tracy Dyson (NASA astronaut), Oleg Novitsky (Roscosmos cosmonaut), Marina Vasilevskaya (Belarussian spaceflight participant). Photo credit: NASA

Engineers were on the launch pad minutes after the scrub to determine what happened and begin the process of extracting the crew.

Engineers surround the Soyuz 2.1a rocket minutes after the Soyuz MS-25 launch aborted 20 seconds before liftoff on March 21, 2024. Screengrab.

If they had launched today, they could have taken the quick route to ISS, docking just over three hours later. Navias said that if they launch on Saturday morning, they will need to take a longer trajectory, docking on Monday.

The space station is a busy place. NASA ISS program manager Joel Montalbano said last month there are 17 missions to the ISS this year requiring a lot of planning since there are only so many docking ports. Montalbano calls it “the coolest game of Tetris.”

The next launch to the ISS actually took place at 4:55 pm ET this afternoon, SpaceX’s 30th cargo mission, SpX-30. It will dock on Saturday.

Usually ISS crews come and go together on the same spacecraft, but in this case Novitsky and Vasilevskaya are staying only for 12 days. Dyson, however, is replacing NASA’s Loral O’Hara who arrived on Soyuz MS-24 about 6 months ago. O’Hara will return with Novitsky and Vasilevskaya on Soyuz MS-24. Her Soyuz MS-24 crewmates, Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub, are staying for a 1-year mission. They will return on Soyuz MS-25 in the fall with Dyson.


This article has been updated.

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