A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying a new U.S.-Russian crew to the International Space Station failed during its ascent Thursday (Oct. 11) , sending its crew capsule falling back toward Earth in a ballistic re-entry, NASA officials said.
Crew, US astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin have left the Soyuz capsule and are in good condition after the emergency landing near the city of Zhezkazganin in central Kazakhstan.
The rocket lifted off as scheduled at 2:40 p.m. (0840 GMT; 4:40 a.m. EDT) Thursday from the Russia-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz booster rocket.
They were to dock at the orbiting outpost six hours later, but the booster suffered a failure minutes after the launch.
“The launch had a problem with the booster (rocket) a few seconds after the first stage separation and we can confirm now that the crew has started to go into ballistic descent mode,” the voice-over on a NASA livestream from mission control in Houston said.
Video footage from the launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome shows a large plume of smoke coming from the rocket at the moment it failed and footage from inside the capsule shows the two astronauts being violently shaken.
NASA commentator Brandi Dean in NASA mission control said that while the Soyuz crew would have been “subjected to higher G-forces” during to the ballistic descent, it is a “known mode of descent” that the crew would have been versed in. The crew reported at one point, relayed through a Russian translator, they were weightless as the capsule flew free on its own.
Search and rescue crews have deployed to the Soyuz landing site and are in contact with the two crew members, one America and one Russian, who are in good condition. We await further word from the search and rescue team. Latest updates: https://t.co/mzKW5uDsTi pic.twitter.com/iztvONjyVx
— NASA (@NASA) October 11, 2018
Later, James Frederick Bridenstine, the administrator at NASA confirmed that the crew was in good condition and a thorough investigation into the cause of the mission failure will be conducted.
.@NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin are in good condition following today’s aborted launch. I’m grateful that everyone is safe. A thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted. Full statement below: pic.twitter.com/M76yisHaKF
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) October 11, 2018
Under the Soviet Union in 1975, a Soyuz failed to separate between stages and triggered the abort system after the launch. The crew survived.
The failure comes weeks after a hole was discovered in the International Space Station amid talk from the Russian space authorities of deliberate sabotage.