Soyuz rocket failure caused by damaged sensor, says Russian Federation

Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, has released footage from a camera on board the Soyuz rocket that failed last month, forcing a dramatic emergency landing of the two astronauts on board.

Russian officials believe that the defective component was damaged during assembly.

The Soyuz rocket launched at 08:40 local time (02:40 GMT) from the Baikanour cosmodrome site on 11 October when the malfunction occurred.

They warned that two other Soyuz rockets could be defective, and said additional checks have been introduced. 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.

The crew capsule performed as designed: it separated and made a ballistic return to Earth with astronauts American Tyler "Nick" Hague and Russian Alexey Ovchinin shaken and stirred, but unharmed.

Because of the sensor failure, a side block of the first rocket stage separated incorrectly, impacting the second-stage fuel tank, which then exploded.

Live video of the astronauts inside showed them shaking violently with vibrations caused by the malfunction. The space capsule carrying the two men ripped away from the damaged rocket, then plunged back to Earth.

The Russian space agency Roscosmos immediately launched an investigation into the rocket failure.

"The reason found by the commission (investigating the accident) was the abnormal operation of a sensor that signals the separation of the first and second stages", Krikalyov said at a space industry event in Moscow.

FILE - In this Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018 file photo, the Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz MS-10 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, flies in the sky at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.

A top Russian official earlier blamed the failure on a malfunction of a sensor but didn't explain why it didn't work.

Alexander Lopatin, the deputy head of Roscosmos, said that "appropriate law enforcement authorities" will now look into who was responsible for the assembly error.

They had initially been scheduled to land on December 13 after their stint on the ISS, a joint project of the space agencies of America, Europe, Russia, Japan and Canada. However, the quick return to crewed flights is likely to prove a relief to the worldwide spaceflight community.

  • Joe Gonzales