NASA astronaut Nick Hague (lf) and Russian Cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin (rt)
Early Thursday morning, the Russian Soyuz rocket failed during its launch while carrying a US-Russian crew to the International Space Station.
Luckily, the crew is safe despite the capsule falling back to Earth in a ballistic re-entry, according to NASA officials.
While NASA hasn’t provided many details about the failure, they did confirm that there was an issue when the booster failed to separate from the Soyuz.
NASA has also stated that Roscosmos has created a commission to investigate exactly what went wrong. NASA and Roscosmos worked closely to insure the safe retrieval of the crew of the Soyuz and both astronauts have been taken to Moscow to be medically evaluated.
NASA Chief, Jim Bridenstine was on site at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan during the launch. This was the first time he has attended a Russian launch since becoming the NASA Administrator.
In a statement following the launch failure, Bridenstine emphasized the importance of crew safety said “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.”
Obviously, this failure will cause ripples within the schedule of the ISS crew as well as planned spacewalks that were to take place on October 19th and 25th to replace batteries attached to the outside of the space station.
Those spacewalks had already been delayed after a Japanese cargo vehicle carrying the new batteries ran into launch issues back in September.
And while it’s too early to determine if this launch failure will affect the return of the ISS astronauts that is scheduled for December, the good news is that the ISS crew has plenty of supplies.
Another piece of good news is that SpaceX is planning to launch an unmanned test flight in January of its Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Depending on NASA’s needs, SpaceX states the Crew Dragon could be ready to launch as early as December of this year. If all goes well with this launch, a manned flight of the Crew Dragon could occur as early as June of 2019.
On the heels of this news, Boeing has plans to launch an unmanned test flight of its Starliner space capsule in March of 2019 with a crewed flight to follow in August of 2019.
These prospects are exciting because it will mean that NASA will no longer be dependent on Russia’s Soyuz rockets to ferry astronauts back and forth to the ISS.
If you’d like to see the entire launch, you can check out the official NASA YouTube video above.