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Russian spacecraft suffers setback in 165th second of flight, crew lands safely

October 11, 18:50 UTC+3 MOSCOW

A Soyuz-FG carrier rocket with a manned Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on October 11 but suffered a setback 2 minutes and 45 seconds after its liftoff

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© Sergei Savostyanov/TASS

MOSCOW, October 11. /TASS/. A Soyuz-FG carrier rocket with a manned Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:40 a.m. Moscow time on Thursday but suffered a setback 2 minutes and 45 seconds after its liftoff due to a cause still unidentified.

This is the first emergency situation with this type of carrier rockets over the past 35 years. The rescue capsule with the crew comprising Roscosmos [Russian space agency] cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Hague landed some time after the abortive launch in the Kazakh steppe 20 km from the town of Zhezkazgan.

Emergency workers are now searching for the rocket’s fragments that have fallen in Kazakhstan.

The rocket with the manned spacecraft carrying the crew blasted off from the launch pad of the Baikonur Cosmodrome at the designated time and initially proceeded according to plan.

The launch was broadcast live by Russia’s Center for the Operation of the Ground-Based Space Infrastructure and the telemetric data were reported together with the data on the condition of the first stage’s engines. The first stage detached from the booster and in the 165th second of the liftoff the newscaster announced: "the carrier rocket aborted." The live broadcast continued for some time, showing the site with tourists who had come to view the launch and the Cosmodrome’s personnel working at the launch pad after the blastoff but the telemetric data were no longer reported. After that, the live broadcast on the websites of the Center for the Operation of the Ground-Based Space Infrastructure and Roscosmos was interrupted.

After it became obvious that the Soyuz flight broke off, NASA constantly reported live on its website about the crew’s rescue. Meanwhile, the newscaster announced that the Soyuz capsule had switched "to the ballistic descent mode" while rescuers had set off to search for the place of its emergency landing. Within several minutes after the carrier rocket aborted its launch, Ovchinin and Hague landed in the Kazakh steppe and established contact with the rescuers.

The cosmonauts were found and taken aboard a Mi-8 helicopter. In the town of Zhezkazgan, they underwent a primary medical check-up. As Russia’s Federal Medical and Biological Agency (FMBA) reported, the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft’s crew members are in good condition and they will be taken to the FMBA’s Central Medical and Sanitary Center in the town of Baikonur for their further medical observation.

As was reported later, the crew was flown to the town of Baikonur.

Director of the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems within the Russian Academy of Sciences Oleg Orlov said that the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft’s crew had experienced a gravitational force of 6g without any problems during the emergency landing. This is thanks to the fact that cosmonauts are normally tested for enduring overloads during the process of their selection and pre-flight training.

Preliminary causes of the rocket’s failure

The causes of the abortive launch are not yet known. The Energomash Enterprise, which has developed engines for Soyuz rockets, and their producer, the Samara-based Kuznetsov Company (part of the United Engine-Making Corporation) declined to give any comments until the telemetric data were fully deciphered.

Roscosmos Chief Dmitry Rogozin has said he has flown to the site of the descent capsule’s landing. NASA has said it is working with Russian partners to get more information on the failure of the Soyuz rocket during its launch. A special commission has been set up to investigate the causes of the accident.

As a source at the Baikonur Cosmodrome told TASS, the preliminary analysis of the telemetry data suggests that the Soyuz-FG carrier rocket suffered an anomaly and its second stage went into an emergency shutdown.

A source in the Russian space industry told TASS it was unlikely that the rocket had been damaged on the eve of its launch at the Cosmodrome. "Security was tightened at the Baikonur spaceport ahead of the launch of the Soyuz MS-10," the source said.

International Space Station

The crew of the International Space Station (ISS) has sufficient food and water supplies and the failed launch of the Soyuz FG booster with the manned Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft will have no impact on the station’s work, a source at the Baikonur Cosmodrome told TASS on Thursday.

"There are sufficient food and water supplies on the station and the Soyuz failure will not affect the work of the station’s crew in any way," the source said.

The Institute of Medical and Biological Problems at the Russian Academy of Sciences has said that the scientific program on the International Space Station will be adjusted for the timetable of experiments due to the Soyuz rocket’s failure.

Space launch was insured for $70 million

The launch of the manned Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft was insured to the amount of 4.655 billion rubles ($70 million) at the Soglasie insurance company, according to information posted on the state procurement website.

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