Russia Plays It Cool In The Wake Of Near-Devastating Rocket Failure, But Their Timeline Could Leave The ISS Understaffed

Friday, 19 October 2018 - 12:18PM
Technology
Space
Friday, 19 October 2018 - 12:18PM
Russia Plays It Cool In The Wake Of Near-Devastating Rocket Failure, But Their Timeline Could Leave The ISS Understaffed
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NASA
For a space agency that just experienced one of the biggest spacecraft failures in recent memory, Russia's Roscosmos is playing it pretty cool: the agency has announced that it will have a full report revealing what happened by the end of the week, and will continue with the next few space launches as planned (all of which are unmanned). If three of these unmanned launches go off without a hitch, then astronauts will soon be back in Soyuz rockets to return to the ISS... That is, if the findings of the Roscosmos investigation say the Soyuz rocket is safe.

The October 11th malfunction of the Soyuz-FG rocket carrying Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin ended with both astronauts landing safely and – although the descent itself was a bit rocky – the emergency escape system performed stunningly well. The problem was initially identified as a "staging failure," a problem with the separation of the rocket's boosters (which are divided into different "stages"). According to the astronauts themselves, there was a significant and sudden drop in acceleration moments before the emergency escape system was activated, which suggests that the rocket wasn't able to engage the next booster stage and keep them at the right speed to exit the atmosphere.

According to Sergei Krikalev, the head of manned space operations at Roscosmos: "The Soyuz rocket will be launched only after the inquiry has identified the causes of the emergency and measures have been taken to prevent such situations in the future." As an added precaution, Krikalev announced that Roscosmos would wait to see how the next three unmanned Soyuz launches go, all of which will use the Soyuz 2-1b models. The next five launches scheduled to use the Soyuz rocket are all cargo or satellite missions, so the agency will have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate that they can safely carry out their missions.

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