Sensor failure led to Soyuz launch failure, says Roscosmos

International Space Station

International Space Station

On October 11, a Soyuz-FG launch vehicle with two members of the new crew for the International Space Station on board failed to reach its destination, becoming the first failure of a manned space launch in modern Russian history.

Executive director of Russia's Roscosmos space agency Sergei Krikalyov said Wednesday that the root of the problem was a sensor that indicated the separation of the first two stages of the Soyuz rocket.

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.

More reason for concern: The manufacturing issue may have affected two additional Soyuz rockets, Skorobogatov said. Its next humans-onboard flight will take place on December 3rd, when Soyuz MS-11 will take three people to the International Space Station.

American Nick Hague, 43, and Russian Aleksey Ovchinin, 47, were recovered in good health from an escape capsule. As we now know, the fourth strap-on block didn't separate properly and actually smacked its top against the central core rocket stage of the Soyuz.

The findings of an official investigation into the incident were presented at a press conference on Thursday.

Roscosmos deputy durector Alexander Lopatin noted Thursday that the October 11 accident caused Roscosmos "reputational damage", but noted such incidents were not unique to Russian cosmonautics, and said that accidents are important lessons which must be learned from.

Live video of the astronauts inside showed them shaking violently with vibrations caused by the malfunction.

"The abnormal separation was caused by the nonopening of the lid of the nozzle meant to separate aside Block D oxidizer tank, due to the deformation of the separation sensor pin [which was bent by 6 degrees and 45 minutes]", Roscosmos officials said in a statement today. The space capsule carrying the two men ripped away from the damaged rocket, then plunged back to Earth.

"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.

Russian rockets are manufactured in Russia and then transported by rail to the Russia-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It's relied upon by NASA, Europe, Russia, and other partners.

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