Rocket heading to ISS failed mid-air

A rocket carrying Soyuz spacecraft with a Russian and a US astronaut heading to the International Space Station failed mid-air and were forced make an emergency landing.

Background

The Soyuz is a series of spacecraft designed for the Soviet space program. Soyuz is widely considered one of the world's safest, most cost-effective human spaceflight vehicle, established by its unparalleled length of operational history. Soyuz spacecraft were used to carry cosmonauts to and from Salyut and later Mir Soviet space stations, and are now used for transport to and from the International Space Station (ISS). At least one Soyuz spacecraft is docked to ISS at all times for use as an escape craft in the event of an emergency.

Analysis

The two-man crew aboard the Soyuz spacecraft set to launch on Thursday to the International Space Station faced mid-air failure leading to an emergency landing. The Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and the US astronaut Nick Hague had to make a dramatic emergency landing in Kazakhstan due to malfunctioning of the rocket.

The TASS agency reported that the Soyuz capsule carrying the crew separated from the malfunctioning rocket and made what is called a steep ballistic descent with parachutes helping slow its speed. Paratroopers parachuted to the rescue site.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, said the problem occurred when the first and second stages of the booster rocket were in the process of separating.

Footage from inside the capsule shows the two men being shaken at the time of the failure.

Russia has immediately suspended all manned launches. Roscomosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said he had ordered a state commission to be set up to investigate what had gone wrong.

Assessment

Our assessment is that despite the strained relationship between the US and Russia, the collaboration in space exploration and discovery is going strong. We believe that both NASA and Roscosmos had their search and rescue teams respond quickly to retrieve the crew members whose spacecraft parachuted to earth in an emergency landing in Kazhaksthan.