Sensor failure led to Soyuz launch failure, says Roscosmos

Terry Joseph
November 2, 2018

The incident, triggered by a mechanical failure, forced two astronauts to abandon ship shortly after launching from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

It was the fourth time a Soyuz called upon ballistic reentry to avoid disaster, and the first major issue with a manned Soyuz mission since 1983.

Two more Soyuz rockets at the Baikonur and Kourou spaceports with the same defect have been discovered, Skorobogatov said, with additional checks introduced into the rocket assembly process.

NASA's Nick Hague, flying for the first time, and Aleksey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, were both unharmed.

Russian Federation is the only country now able to send astronauts to the International Space Station, and the accident caused it to suspend all launches until getting to the bottom of the rare failed manned launch.

The Russian Soyuz spacecraft is now the only vehicle for ferrying crews to the International Space Station after the US space shuttle fleet retired.

Roscosmos has scheduled a press conference for November 1 to further detail the outcome of its investigation. The space capsule carrying the two men ripped away from the damaged rocket, then plunged back to Earth.

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The two crew members were then recovered by emergency workers near the Kazakh city of Dzhezkazgan, 400km (250 miles) north-east of the rocket launch site.

After investigating the incident, Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, determined that one of the rocket's boosters failed and stuck to the main rocket body instead of peeling off.

"The reason for the abnormal separation. was due to a deformation of the stem of the contact separation sensor.", Skorobogatov told reporters.

"It has been proven, fully confirmed, that this happened specifically because of this sensor, and that could only have happened during the package's assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome", he said.

Sergei Krikalev, the executive director of "manned programs" for Russia's space corporation, Roscosmos, said a sensor on board the rocket failed to properly signal the separation of the first and second stages.

Following the investigation by the space experts, "appropriate law enforcement authorities" will work out who is guilty of the assembly mistake, said Roscosmos deputy head Alexander Lopatin.

Since then, Nasa has paid Russian Federation for seats on its Soyuz rockets to ferry its astronauts to the station.

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