A fault in a Soyuz rocket booster has resulted in an aborted crew mission to the International Space Station, but fortunately no loss of life. The astronauts in the capsule, Nick Hague (U.S.) and Alexey Ovchinin (Russia) successfully detached upon recognizing the fault and made a safe, if bumpy, landing nearly 250 miles east of the launch site in Kazakhstan. This high-profile failure could bolster demand for U.S.-built crewed spacecraft. The launch proceeded normally for the first minute and a half, but at that point, when the first and second stages were meant to detach, there was an unspecified fault, possibly a failure of the first stage and its fuel tanks to detach. The astronauts recognized this issue and immediately initiated the emergency escape system. Hague and Ovchinin in the capsule before the fault occurred. The Soyuz capsule detached from the rocket and began a ballistic descent (read: falling), arrested by a parachute before landing approximately 34 minutes after the fault. Right now thats about as much detail on the actual event as has been released by Roscosmos and NASA. Press conferences have been mainly about being thankful that the crew is okay, assuring people that theyll get to the bottom of this and kicking the can down the road on everything else. Although it will likely take weeks before we know exactly what happened, the repercussions for this failure are immediate. The crew on the ISS will not be reinforced, and as there are only 3 up there right now with a single Soyuz capsule with which to return to Earth, theres a chance theyll have to leave the ISS empty for a short time. The current crew was scheduled to return in December, but NASA has said that the Soyuz is safe to take until January 4, so theres a bit of leeway. Thats not to say they can necessarily put together another launch before then, but if the residents there need to stay a bit longer to safely park the station, as it were, they have a bit of extra time to do so. The Soyuz booster and capsule have been an extremely reliable system for shuttling crew to and from the ISS, and no Soyuz fault has ever led to loss of life, although there have been a few issues recently with DOA satellites and of course the recent hole found in one just in August. This was perhaps the closest a Soyuz has come to a life-threatening failure, and as such any Soyuz-based launches will be grounded until further notice. To be clear, this was a failure with the Soyuz-FG rocket, which is slated for replacement, not with the capsule or newer rocket of the same name. SpaceX and Boeing have been competing to create and certify their own crew capsules, which were scheduled for testing some time next year — but while the Soyuz issues may nominally increase the demand for these U.S.-built alternatives, the testing process cant be rushed. That said, grounding the Soyuz (if only for crewed flights) and conducting a full-scale fault investigation is no small matter, and if were not flying astronauts up to the ISS in one of them, were not doing it at all. So there is at least an incentive to perform testing of the new crew capsules in a timely manner and keep to as short a timeframe as is reasonable. You can watch the launch as it played out here:
The crew are in good condition after a "ballistic descent." Astronauts Nick Hague of NASA and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin are reportedly safe after making an emergency landing following the failure of their Soyuz spacecraft booster. After what looked like a routine launch, the crew were on their way to the international space station (ISS) when the booster, one of four around a central rocket, malfunctioned. NASA reported that the crew was forced to make a "ballistic descent," at a rapid speed with higher-than-normal g-forces. Shortly after the news of the descent, the capsule was sited under parachute in Kazhakstan, according to Gerry Doyle from Reuters. It touched down soon after, and the crew has made contact with ground rescue teams. Rescues crews are en route and should arrive to the Kazakhstan landing site at about 6:30 AM ET. "I just rode a malfunctioning booster for a few minutes and had to abort," said one of the astronauts. NASA has confirmed that Hague and Ovchinin are in contact with rescue crews, and that they're in good condition, though no doubt a little shook up. Roskosmos general director Dmitry Rogozin put it more succinctly: "The crew has landed. Everyone is alive," he said. NASA confirmed the incident was caused by "an anomaly with the booster," which caused the ascent to be aborted. The agency also confirmed that Hague and Ovchinin are in "good condition" and were transported to a training center outside of Moscow. A full investigation is the works, so more information should be available in the weeks to come. Update 10/11/2018 5:25 AM ET: The article was updated to include details of the landing and condition of the crew. Search and rescue teams report they are in contact with the Soyuz crew, who report they are in good condition. The teams are en route to the landing site. Live updates: "I just rode a malfunctioning booster for a few minutes and had to abort" probably stretches the definition of "fine," but it's great news they are healthy and safe: Update 10/11/2018 10:29 AM ET: This article was updated to include NASA's statement. The full statement appears below. "The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 4:40 a.m. EDT Thursday, 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. "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. 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."