Earlier this week, the Inquisitr reported that a rocket malfunction grounded a scheduled spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS), forcing the two-astronaut crew onboard the vessel to perform an emergency landing in a steppe of Kazakhstan.
The rocket in question — a Soyuz-FG — has been ferrying manned missions to the ISS since 2002 and is, according to RussianSpaceWeb, the only rocket used by the Russian space agency Roscosmos to give astronauts a ride to work.
NASA is also depending on the Russian rocket to carry its astronauts into space — or at least it will be until U.S. spaceflights can be resumed with the launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner next year. The same goes for the European Space Agency.
However, following the Soyuz-FG aborted launch on October 11, Roscosmos has suspended all crewed launches, reports Gizmodo.
While this measure was undoubtedly taken to ensure the safety of the astronauts due to travel to the orbiting laboratory in the near future, the decision has given rise to the concern that the ISS might be left unmanned for the first time in nearly 20 years, notes USA Today.
With no manned missions being sent to the space station, and with the current ISS crew slated to depart the orbital outpost by early January, there’s a chance that the station could go unhelmed, at least for a while.
— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) October 13, 2018
“To step away from having people permanently in space would be a huge psychological and technical blow,” said Wayne Hale, former manager of NASA’s shuttle program. “Uncrewing the station is something that’s been talked about and planned for, but it’s not really a good option.”
Next Manned Spaceflight To The ISS Due In December
Nevertheless, it seems that there is no reason to worry, as a recent report from Reuters shows that Russia intends to continue manned Soyuz spaceflights despite the recent incident.
In fact, Roscosmos will not only be keeping to the schedule, but actually plans on sending up another Soyuz rocket earlier than expected. Although the next crewed flight to the ISS is due in December, the space agency could be launching astronauts to the space station as early as November 28, states the media outlet, citing the Russian news agency Interfax.
Russia may resume manned space flights on November 28: Interfax – read more – https://t.co/TyMR99AmNt
MOSCOW (Reuters) – The next manned flight of a Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station (ISS) could take place on Nov. 28, Interfax news agency quoted a Russian space … pic.twitter.com/w8P4FZReRm
— NewsFlash – Fresh News (@NewsflashN) October 13, 2018
Although Roscosmos has yet to confirm the news, Interfax received the information earlier today from “a Russian space industry source.”
Meanwhile, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stated that he is “confident” that the U.S. space agency will resume Soyuz spaceflights by December, per the Guardian.
“I fully anticipate that we will fly again on a Soyuz rocket and I have no reason to believe at this point that it will not be on schedule,” Bridenstine told reporters in Moscow on October 12.
The statement came on the same day that Roscosmos officials announced that they had discovered the cause of the Soyuz rocket failure, as reported by the Russian news agency TASS.
What Happened With The Soyuz Rocket?
Thursday’s rocket malfunction is the first incident of this kind for Roscosmos in decades, and the space agency has been diligently working with NASA to find out what went wrong.
The Soyuz-FG soared to the skies as planned, carrying the Soyuz MS-10 capsule with rookie NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin on board, but suffered a booster failure two minutes after takeoff.
As a result, the crewed capsule performed a ballistic re-entry and managed to get safely back on ground, while the rocket crashed some 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the Kazakh city of Zhezkazgan.
The video below, uploaded on YouTube by the Guardian, shows footage from inside the Soyuz MS-10 capsule captured during the rocket failure.
Following a preliminary investigation, Roscosmos revealed that the problem may have occurred during the rocket’s in-flight separation. More concretely, it seems that elements from the first stage of the Soyuz rocket smashed into the second stage, triggering the ballistic re-entry of the Soyuz capsule.
“A deviation from the standard trajectory occurred and apparently the lower part of the second stage disintegrated. The rocket stopped its normal flight and after that the automatic system did its work,” said Sergei Krikalyov, executive director for manned flights at Roscosmos.
“This could have been caused by the failure of the system of the normal separation, which should have been activated. We will analyze the causes in detail,” added Krikalyov.
The failed rocket launch was photographed from space by ISS commander Alexander Gerst, who shared the images on Twitter.
Bin froh, dass es unseren Freunden gut geht. Danke an >1000 Rettungskräfte! Heute hat sich wieder gezeigt, wie großartig die Soyuz ist: Trotz Fehlstart wurde die Crew sicher zur Erde zurückgebracht. Raumfahrt ist hart. Aber wir müssen weitermachen, zum Wohle der Menschheit. pic.twitter.com/0J5qQCn8gB
— Alexander Gerst (@Astro_Alex) October 11, 2018
The German astronaut was supposed to welcome Hague and Ovchinin on board the space station on October 11 but ended up watching the aborted launch from his vantage point on the ISS, notes Space.
“Glad our friends are fine,” Gerst wrote on Twitter on the same day. “Thanks to the rescue force of over 1,000 search-and-rescue professionals! Today showed again what an amazing vehicle the Soyuz is to be able to save the crew from such a failure. Spaceflight is hard. And we must keep trying for the benefit of humankind.”
As for Hague and Ovchinin, their spaceflight will be rescheduled in a few months’ time, reports the New York Post, citing Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin.
“The boys will certainly fly their mission,” Rogozin stated on Twitter. “We plan that they will fly in the spring.”