A booster rocket carrying a Soyuz spacecraft with a Russian and a US astronaut onboard headed for the International Space Station (ISS) failed in mid-air today (11 October) forcing the crew to make an emergency landing.
The rocket was carrying US astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin. Footage from inside the Soyuz showed the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, with their arms and legs flailing.
The Russian federal space agency (Roscosmos) launched its Soyuz MS-10 crew vehicle with two new crew members from Baikonur at 1440 local time. Failure came during a booster staging a few minutes in flight.
The crewed Soyuz would normally ferry three people to the ISS but was carrying a reduced crew complement as part of Russia’s continued initiative to keep its total crew presence on Station to just two until the launch in late 2019 of their new science lab, Nauka.
The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft had been in build operations for several years in preparation for its scheduled six-month mission to the Space Station. Earlier this year, it passed a series of pressure and acoustic tests to verify its fitness to carry crew to orbit, a process completed on 20 July with certification of the craft’s hermeticity.
The emergency escape system has never been needed on the Soyuz-FG rocket, though it was used on 26 September 1983 during the Soyuz T-10-1 launch. In the final seconds of that count, the Soyuz T rocket caught fire on the launch pad, and the launch escape system pulled the crew away from the rocket just two seconds before the vehicle exploded.
Within minutes of the emergency landing Russian news agencies reported that the crew had safely made an emergency landing and were in radio contact and that rescuers were on the way to pick them up.