Soyuz rocket failure: What went wrong, and what happens next

New Space Station Crew Launches Thursday Watch It Live

New Space Station Crew Launches Thursday Watch It Live

Booster rockets carrying a Soyuz spacecraft with a Russian and a USA astronaut on board headed for the International Space Station failed mid-air on Thursday, forcing the crew to make an emergency landing, Russian news agencies reported.

The mishap occurred as the first and second stages of a Russian rocket separated shortly after the launch from Kazakhstan's Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur.

The rocket's emergency abort system took over at that point, ejecting the Soyuz capsule, which carried the two-man crew on a harrowing ride back down to Earth. The two crew members, astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin, made it back to the surface safe and sound.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine greets astronaut Nick Hague after his emergency landing during a crew launch to the space station.

Russian officials said all manned space flight missions would be suspended until investigators figure out what went wrong. Hague has been in the astronaut corps for five years after a career in the Air Force. Three crew are now aboard the station and were due to return in December.

He and Ovchinin were due to join Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, NASA Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev on the ISS.

About 34 minutes elapsed from the time the rocket failed to when the capsule finally parachuted to a landing on the steppes of Kazakhstan, where rescue crews swiftly picked up the pair.

They were to dock at the orbiting outpost six hours later, but the booster suffered a failure minutes after the launch.

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There was no immediate word on whether the current space station crew of an American, a Russian and a German might need to extend its own six-month mission.

"I will also say that we are thrilled that he's safe", Bridenstine continued.

It was the first serious launch problem experienced by a manned Soyuz space mission since 1983 when a fire broke out at the base of the booster rocket while the crew was preparing for lift-off.

The launch failure raises questions about the continued reliability of Russia's Soyuz launch system, which lost a cargo spacecraft at the end of 2016 and sent a Soyuz capsule with a hole in it to the ISS earlier this year.

In a press release issued yesterday, NASA said it will "support Roscosmos' investigation into the incident". That said, there's no way of knowing how long Soyuz will be grounded, and when humans can once again be launched into space. The leak was quickly repaired, but Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin suggested that the leak was caused by something other than an accident or production defect.

Space is an area of cooperation between the United States and Russian Federation at a time of fraught relations.

NASA said the incident was the first time a crew has failed to reach orbit after liftoff. -Russian cooperation in space, voicing hope that it wouldn't be affected by politics.

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