Astronauts Escape Soyuz Rocket After Major Malfunction On Way To ISS

By Tom Ozimek

A rocket carrying two astronauts on their way to the International Space Station suffered a booster malfunction, forcing them to abort the flight and return to Earth in a “ballistic re-entry mode.”

Russian Cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague of NASA were on board, but their lives are not in danger, according to NASA commentator Brandi Dean at NASA mission control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The two crewmembers of the Russian MS-10 Soyuz capsule landed roughly 12 miles east of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, and were met by a search and recovery team, NASA said.

The malfunction on the rocket happened shortly after launch in Kazakhstan.

Dean reported that “there has been an issue with the booster and we are standing by for information as we continue to get it from the Russian flight control team. But everything seems to be fine with the crew, we had good comms with them and they are OK.”

“Today the Soyuz MS-10 launch did go into a ballistic re-entry mode a little after 3:47 a.m. Central time,” Dean reported.

“That means the crew will not be going to the International Space Station today. Instead, they will be taking a sharp land coming back to Earth. Search and rescue crews are always pre-staged in the event that something like this does happen.”

“The boosters on a second-stage launching vehicle switched off,” sources at the Baikonur Cosmodrome told the Interfax news agency. “The crew is alive. They are conducting an emergency landing.”

Dean said that while the Soyuz crew would have been “subjected to higher G-forces” during to the ballistic descent, it is a “known mode of descent” that the crew would have trained for.

A Russian “state commission” has been formed to investigate the mishap, CBS reported.

Dmitri Rogozin, director general of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said in a Tweet, “the Soyuz MS emergency rescue system worked. The crew is saved.”

“Recovery forces are in touch with the crew and first reports are that they are in good condition,” according to NASA TV broadcast.

The Soyuz rocket had taken off at about 04:40 Eastern time (GMT-4; 2:40 p.m. local time) for a six-hour flight to the ISS.

Live television views from inside the crew module showed Ovchinin and Hague monitoring cockpit displays as the rocket accelerated away from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The four strap-on boosters were jettisoned shortly after liftoff, as per procedure, and the capsule was being propelled under the power of its second stage core booster when the mishap occurred, triggering an emergency abort.

Hague and Ovchinin were expected to spend six months on the station working on a range of scientific experiments.

Thursday’s incident was the first launch mishap for a Russian Soyuz booster since an on-pad abort in August 1983, CBS reported.

 
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