Russian Soyuz rocket failure caused by damaged sensor during assembly, investigation finds

Gwen Vasquez
November 3, 2018

Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Hague returned safely back to Earth in their capsule.

Speaking at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Krikalev said the sensor in question "should signal the removal of the first rocket stage from the second".

Executive director of Russia's Roscosmos space agency Sergei Krikalyov said Wednesday that the root of the problem was a sensor that indicated the separation of the first two stages of the Soyuz rocket.

A Russian cosmonaut and USA astronaut were forced to abort their mission on October 11 after a rocket bound for the International Space Station failed, sending them plunging back to Earth in an emergency landing.

"The cause of a non-standard separation" was a "deformation" of a part during assembly, Skorobogatov told a news conference at Russia's mission control outside Moscow.

During the aborted launch, Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague made an emergency landing and escaped unharmed.

The Soyuz is now the only rocket that is capable of sending humans to the ISS and a launch failure hasn't happened since 1983. More recently, Russia's space program has been dogged by a string of failed satellite launches involving unmanned vehicles.

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The rocket producer will also take apart two other rockets that have been recently assembled and are due to launch in the coming weeks and then re-assemble them, Skorobogatov said.

Russian officials believe the component was damaged during assembly.

The Russian space agency said yesterday it hoped to launch a new crew for the International Space Station on December 3.

Both NASA and Roskosmos said the astronauts were in good condition after their capsule landed about 20 kilometers east of the Kazakh city of Zhezqazghan.

Alexander Lopatin, the deputy head of Roscosmos, said that "appropriate law enforcement authorities" will now look into who was responsible for the assembly error.

"Every accident has a name and surname (of the guilty party)", he said.

The next crew comprising Oleg Kononenko of Russia, Anne Charlotte McClain of the United States, and David Saint-Jacques of Canada was initially scheduled to be sent to the ISS in late December, but that launch was rescheduled after the October 11 accident.

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