We Have Liftoff: Russia Clears The Soyuz Rocket To Return Crew To The ISS After Investigating Cause Of Failed October Launch

Friday, 02 November 2018 - 1:30PM
Technology
Space
Friday, 02 November 2018 - 1:30PM
We Have Liftoff: Russia Clears The Soyuz Rocket To Return Crew To The ISS  After Investigating Cause Of Failed October Launch
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NASA/Bill Ingalls
After completing their investigation into the aborted October launch that forced two astronauts to make an emergency escape, the Russian space agency Roscosmos has announced that it's safe to go ahead with the planned December rocket mission, which will bring astronauts Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques to the ISS. It's a particularly crucial mission considering that, without a new crew, the ISS would be empty by January.

Almost immediately after reports came in that the October 11th Soyuz rocket launch had gone haywire, outlets were reporting that the problem happened during "staging," a process in which the rocket detaches spent boosters. According to the official press release published by Roscosmos, the cause was a bent pin in a key sensor:

"The abnormal separation was caused by the non-opening of the lid of the nozzle intended to separate aside Block D oxidizer tank due to the deformation of the separation sensor pin (bended by 6˚45'). It was damaged during the assembling of the strap-on boosters with the core stage (the Packet) at the Baikonur Cosmodrome."

Because of that bent pin on the sensor, the boosters in Block D ended up colliding with the "core stage" of the rocket during their separation, resulting in a loss of attitude control, which the rocket's ability to stay pointed into the correct direction. Roscosmos said the pin was damaged during assembly, so we can rule out sabotage (unlike that suspicious hole in the ISS).

Since the investigation has identified the problem and all of Roscosmos' unmanned rocket launches since October 11th have gone off without a hitch, the agency can go ahead with the December ISS mission just as they planned. Either way, we're glad the ISS doesn't have to break its record as the longest continuously inhabited platform in low-Earth orbit (18 years!).

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