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Soyuz launch failed due to assembly problem: Russia
by Anna Malpas
Korolyov (AFP) Nov 01, 2018

Soyuz MS-10 just prior to mission failure.

Russia said on Thursday the launch of a Soyuz rocket failed last month due to a sensor that was damaged during assembly but insisted that the spacecraft remains reliable.

Russia, the only country able to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station, suspended all launches after a Soviet-designed Soyuz rocket failed on October 11 just minutes after blast-off -- the first such incident in the history of post-Soviet space travel.

Oleg Skorobogatov, the head of the commission that probed the accident, said the flight was aborted because part of a sensor that indicates the separation of the stages of the rocket was damaged during assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

"The cause of a non-standard separation" was a "deformation" of a part during assembly, Skorobogatov told a news conference at Russia's mission control outside Moscow.

He said the deformation caused a booster on the first stage to malfunction and collide with a fuel tank which "led to the loss of stabilisation" and triggered an emergency landing.

A video recorded by a Soyuz camera and published by the Russian space agency showed the rocket rapidly changing direction and spinning around after one of the four boosters failed to separate in synch with the others.

During the aborted launch, Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague made an emergency landing and escaped unharmed.

After the successful emergency landing both the Russian and US space agencies praised the Soviet-designed rocket, with NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine saying last month that US astronauts will continue using the Soyuz and praising its "resilience".

The Soyuz "remains the most reliable rocket," Dmitry Baranov, acting director of Energia, the manufacturer of the rocket, said on Thursday.

- 'Drawing conclusions' -

Skorobogatov, who heads TsNIIMash, a state research institute specialising in spacecraft and missile development, said the commission ruled out a manufacturing problem.

"The only place where it could happen was during rocket assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome," he said.

Skorobogatov warned that two other rockets -- one of which was also at Baikonur -- may have problems due to assembly.

The other was now in Kourou, a space port in French Guiana which Russia uses for commercial launches of satellites, he added.

Russian officials pledged to improve oversight during assembly of the spacecraft.

"We have to draw conclusions from every emergency situation," said Roscosmos deputy director Alexander Lopatin, adding that Russia has discussed the findings of the probe with NASA.

"In general, the reputation of our space industry will not be hurt by this case, because we will make sure that these situations don't happen (again)," he added.

Following the investigation, "appropriate law enforcement authorities" will work out who is guilty of the assembly mistake, Lopatin said.

"Every accident has a name and surname (of the guilty party)," he said.

The Russian space agency said on Wednesday it hoped to launch a new crew for the International Space Station on December 3.

On the rocket destined for the ISS will be Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, and NASA's Anne McClain.

The trio had originally been scheduled to blast off on December 20, but had their trip brought forward after the failed October 11 launch.

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Astronauts confident of next crewed Soyuz mission to Space Station
Moscow (Sputnik) Oct 29, 2018
Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques says he is more confident than ever in the Russian Soyuz rocket booster which sends astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), despite a spectacular failure of the one of the rockets on October 11, about two minutes into its flight. Saint-Jacques was initially scheduled to fly to the ISS on December 20 for Expedition #58. However, since the last expedition was aborted, his flight date was canceled. Last week, however, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenst ... read more

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