Soyuz MS-10 Launch Abort Prompts Investigation into Booster Anomaly
MS-10 marks 139th flight of the Soyuz program, the fourth Soyuz launch abort, and the first manned booster mishap in 43 years.
NASA officials in Washington are pledging to conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of an anomaly with a rocket booster on the Soyuz MS-10 manned spacecraft, prompting astronauts onboard to abort shortly after launch to the International Space Station (ISS). The malfunction resulted in the space capsule making a ballistic landing, at a short and steep reentry angle back to Earth.
The MS-10 marked not only the 139th flight of a Soyuz spacecraft, but also the fourth ballistic reentry throughout the Soyuz space program’s long history. The event also is the first manned booster accident to occur at high altitude since the Soyuz 7K-T, the second generation of the Soyuz spacecraft, failed in 1975 – 43 years earlier.
The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 4:40 a.m. EDT on Oct. 11 (2:40 p.m. in Baikonur) carrying American Astronaut Nick Hague and Russian Cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin.
Shortly after launch, there was an anomaly with the booster and the launch ascent was aborted, resulting in a ballistic landing of the spacecraft.
To boost safety, engineers inspired by Project Mercury, the first U.S. human spaceflight program, in the 1960s developed a complex sensing system to monitor launch vehicle parameters and trigger an abort in the event of a booster malfunction. Engineers indicate the most likely failure modes and abort conditions are: premature separation of a strap-on booster, low engine thrust, loss of combustion chamber pressure, and loss of booster guidance. Upon abort, the shroud splits between the service module and descent module and four folding stabilizers enhance aerodynamic stability during ascent. All Soyuz spacecraft feature a space abort system with this basic design, which has remained largely unchanged for five decades, officials say.
Three failed launches of a manned Soyuz vehicle include: Soyuz 18-1 in 1975; Soyuz T-10-1 in 1983, which involved an on-pad fire and launch vehicle explosion; and Soyuz MS-10 in October 2018.
"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," NASA officials say. "They will be transported to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia outside of Moscow.
"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and the NASA team are monitoring the situation carefully. NASA is working closely with Roscosmos to ensure the safe return of the crew. Safety of the crew is the utmost priority for NASA. A thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted," NASA officials add.