A Russian Soyuz spacecraft crew launch to the International Space Station (ISS) suffered an emergency booster failure shortly after lift-off from Kazakhstan on October 11, but the crew is safe. On board the Soyuz MS-10 were US Astronaut Nick Hague, KG5TMV, and Russian Cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was in attendance at the launch in order to discuss with Russian space agency Roscosmos a mysterious hole that had apparently been drilled through the side of the last Soyuz vehicle. That spacecraft had successfully carried cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, and astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor, KG5TMT, and Alexander Gerst, KF5ONO, to the ISS last spring. In a statement, Bridenstine promised “a thorough investigation” into the cause of the October 11 aborted launch.
“Shortly after launch, there was an anomaly with the booster and the launch ascent was aborted, resulting in a ballistic landing of the spacecraft,” Bridenstine said. “Search-and-rescue teams were deployed to the landing site. Hague and Ovchinin are out of the capsule and are reported to be in good condition.” The pair was returned to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan en route to Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City. This was Hague’s first launch and Ovchinin’s second.
Bridenstine and the NASA team are monitoring the situation carefully, the space agency said, adding that NASA is working closely with Roscosmos.
Early this month, NASA issued a statement regarding the late-August discovery of a mysterious 2-millimeter hole in the wall of the Soyuz capsule that is now docked to the ISS. The resulting air pressure leak has since been repaired. There is no indication the launch failure and the mystery hole in the last Soyuz launched are connected.
Roscosmos said the hole was not drilled by accident, opening the possibility of sabotage. Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin earlier ruled out a manufacturing defect.
“[This] indicates that this is an isolated issue which does not categorically affect future production,” the NASA statement said. “This conclusion does not necessarily mean the hole was created intentionally or with mal-intent.”
Roscosmos has claimed the hole may have been drilled by a technician on the ground. NASA and Roscosmos continue to investigate the incident to determine the cause. A November spacewalk was planned in order to gather more information.
In the wake of the Soyuz failure, operations to transport ISS crew members have been suspended. The current ISS crew of Auñón-Chancellor, Gerst, and Prokopyev is scheduled to return to Earth in December.