Russian Federation blames rocket failure on mistake during assembly

Roscosmos' executive director Sergei Krikalyov said Wednesday the probe found that a malfunction of a sensor which signals the jettisoning one of the rocket's four side boosters caused the booster to collide with the second stage of the rocket.

Russia's space agency says an investigation has found that a rocket carrying a crew to the International Space Station failed recently because of a technical malfunction of a sensor.

Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and American astronaut Nick Hague had to abort their mission on October 11 and perform an emergency landing after the Soyuz rocket supposed to carry them to the International Space Station failed.

They landed safely on a steppe in Kazakhstan, but the aborted mission dealt another blow to the troubled Russian space program that serves as the only way to deliver astronauts to the orbiting outpost.

The chief investigator at Roscosmos, Igor Skorobogatov, said during the press briefing that two other Soyuz rockets could possibly have the same defect and that more checks have been introduced during the assembly process.

"The cause of the abnormal separation was the failure to open the lid of the exhaust nozzle of the oxidizer tank of the "D" block due to the deformation of the stem of the contact separation sensor committed during assembly of the "package" at the Baikonur Cosmodrome", he said.

Roscosmos, Russia's space agency, posted a video of the botched launch on Twitter on Thursday.

Skorobogatov said officials are now taking steps, including putting all assembly staff through competence tests and additional training, to make sure such malfunctions don't happen again.

The incident, on 11 October, was the first serious launch problem by a manned Soyuz space mission since 1983.

Russian rockets are manufactured in Russia and then transported by rail to the Russia-leased Baikonur cosmodrome.

The Soyuz is now the only rocket that is capable of sending humans to the ISS and a launch failure hasn't happened since 1983. When the Soyuz launch failed earlier this month, uncertainty over the ISS crew launch schedule led to speculation that the space station would have to be abandoned, at least for the time being.

Space Daily carries an Agence France Presse report which said with the cause identified, Roscosmos believes it could conduct a crewed launch well ahead of the ISS's deadline.

  • Essie Rivera