Astronauts make emergency landing after rocket malfunction

Olive Hawkins
October 12, 2018

Two astronauts from the US and Russia are making an emergency landing after a Russian booster rocket carrying them into orbit to the International Space Station has failed after launch.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin were aboard the spacecraft when it launched at 4:40 a.m. EDT on a mission to the station.

Bridenstine attended the launch at Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome with Rogozin as part of an effort to mend relations between the two space superpowers strained by NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

Because the Soyuz spacecraft did not reach orbit at the point of this booster failure, the crew was forced to make a rapid ballistic descent likely under high g-forces.

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 crew is heading back to the landing site in Kazakhstan.

"Shortly after launch, there was an anomaly with the booster and the launch ascent was aborted, resulting in a ballistic landing of the spacecraft", the United States space agency said in a statement.

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Additionally, the Soyuz rocket launches cargo ships to the space station along with crewed missions like the one this morning.

The International Space Station, a rare point of cooperation between Moscow and Washington, has been orbiting the Earth at roughly 28,000 kilometres per hour since 1998 and will mark its 20th birthday in November. Last month, an oxygen leak was found in the International Space Station that Rogozin said was made deliberately.

Hague and Ovchinin were travelling to the ISS to join three other crewmates for ISS Expedition 57. But as the Soyuz is now the only way we have to get humans into space, this means new crew can't be sent to the ISS until Roscosmos is confident the issue has been identified and resolved. During the live broadcast of the launch, narration from Mission Control suggested that the booster failed to separate from the Soyuz capsule.

The Canadian Space Agency said Thursday that it did not know whether the failed launch would affect Saint-Jacques' launch date.

Currently, the Russian's Soyuz rocket is the only system in the world that can carry human crew members up to the ISS, and return them safely home afterward. "Today showed again what an fantastic vehicle the Soyuz is, to be able to save the crew from such a failure. A thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted", Bridenstine said in a statement.

Until a full investigation can be completed by Roscosmos, Russia's space agency, the Soyuz rocket is grounded.

Rockets use boosters to provide the thrust they need to launch from Earth and breech the atmosphere. Roscosmos sent more than 70 rocket engines back to production lines to replace faulty components, a move that resulted in a yearlong break in Proton launches and badly dented Russia's niche in the global market for commercial satellite launches.

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