from the the-more-the-merrier dept.
Less than two months after a booster separation issue with a Soyuz rocket caused a dramatic, high-gravity landing, the Russian vehicle soared back into space on Monday at 6:31 ET (11:31 UTC). The launch from Kazakhstan, under mostly clear, blue skies, was nominal as each of the rocket's first, second, and third stages fired normally.
The launch sent NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian David Saint-Jacques, and Russian Oleg Kononenko into space aboard their Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft. After making four orbits around the Earth, their Soyuz spacecraft is scheduled to dock with the Russian segment of the International Space Station at 12:35pm ET (17:35 UTC) Monday.
According to SpaceFlightNow.com the docking was successful.
Previously: Soyuz Crew Vehicle Fails Mid-Flight, Astronauts OK
Soyuz Failure Narrowed Down to Collision Between Booster and Core Stage
NASA Confident in Soyuz, Ready for Crewed Launch in December
Roscosmos Completes Investigation into October Soyuz Failure, Finds Assembly Issue
The Russian federal space agency, Roscosmos, launched their Soyuz MS-10 crew vehicle with two new crewmembers that were set for the International Space Station. However, the launch – which took place on Thursday at 0840 UTC from Baikonur – failed a few minutes into flight. Soyuz MS-10 was then aborted on a ballistic entry, before safely landing downrange of the launch site.
The crewed Soyuz, which would normally ferry three people to the Station, was carrying a reduced crew complement as part of Russia's initiative to keep their total crew presence on Station to just two until the launch, late next year, of their primary science lab, Nauka.
However, those plans are unlikely to apply now Soyuz MS-10 has failed to arrive at the ISS, with the Soyuz FG likely to be grounded for some time as a State Commision invesigation[sic] takes place.
Russian investigators believe a malfunction during separation of the Soyuz rocket's four liquid-fueled first stage boosters two minutes after liftoff from Kazakhstan led to an emergency landing of a two-man crew heading for the International Space Station, officials said Friday.
Speaking to reporters Friday in Moscow, veteran cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, head of the Russian space agency's human spaceflight program, said the investigation into Thursday's launch failure has narrowed on a collision between part of the Soyuz rocket's first stage and the launcher's second stage.
Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Hague were carried away from the failing rocket by an emergency escape system, and they safely landed inside their descent module near Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, around 250 miles (400 kilometers) northeast of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, where the launch originated.
The Soyuz first stage is comprised of four boosters, each powered by a four-nozzle kerosene-fueled RD-107A main engine, that burn for 1 minute, 58 seconds, during launch. Once their engine firings are complete, the boosters are supposed to jettison simultaneously at an altitude of roughly 150,000 feet (45 kilometers) to tumble back to Earth. Krikalev said Friday that one of the boosters did not separate from the Soyuz core stage — or second stage — cleanly.
Less than two weeks ago, a Soyuz rocket took off with a Russian cosmonaut and a NASA astronaut riding in a Soyuz capsule. The launch proceeded normally for about two minutes until the rocket experienced a problem, and one of the Soyuz's emergency escape systems fired automatically and pulled the crew vehicle away from the booster. After a few seconds of rapid acceleration, the crew capsule carrying Aleksey Ovchinin and Nick Hague made a relatively normal, safe return to Earth.
[...] On Tuesday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine felt confident enough in the Russian investigation to declare that the next crewed Soyuz launch will occur in December. "We're fully anticipating" putting a crew on that rocket, he said at a meeting of the National Space Council. Investigators have a "really, really good idea" about what occurred during the errant launch earlier this month, he said.
Moreover, Bridenstine praised the reaction of the Soyuz capsule to the rocket error and its life-saving features that protected the crew members on board. "While this was a failed launch, it was probably the single most successful failed launch we could have imagined," Bridenstine said.
Three unmanned flights of the Soyuz will occur before the planned crewed launch to the ISS.
Humans are to blame for the October failure of the Soyuz rocket:
The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has completed its investigation into October's Soyuz mishap in record time, pointing the finger of blame at problems during assembly.
Mutterings emitted from the space agency earlier this week suggested that the issue was related to a sensor that detects stage separation of the booster. In yesterday's press conference, Roscosmos provided a few more details and shared a terrifying video[*] showing the moment things went bad for the Soyuz. It then gave the green light for putting a crew back on the thing next month.
The actual explosion was, according to the State Commission tasked with getting to the bottom of the mess, caused by one of the side boosters not separating correctly and striking the rocket core. This led to the depressurisation of a fuel tank and the loss of control of the booster. The problems start at 1:23 in the video.
Of course, the real question is why did the separation fail? The answer, according to Roscosmos, was a failure to open a nozzle at the top of the strap-on booster to vent its tank. This meant the booster did not separate cleanly. The nozzle failure was caused by a faulty contact sensor, which had been "bent" during assembly of the Soyuz at the Baikonur cosmodrome.
[*] [This appears to be the video. --Ed.]
Also at Inverse.
The American incentives for engaging with Russia in space in the 1990s — political goals like the employment of idle rocket scientists to prevent missile proliferation — have mostly disappeared with the resumption of tensions. The Trump administration has already proposed that by 2025 the United States should stop supporting the International Space Station that is the principal joint project today. A final decision is up to Congress. The American role might be shifted to a commercial footing thereafter.
[...] [It] is unclear how much longer the post-Soviet era of space cooperation between the United States and Russia can last in the more hostile environment now surrounding relations. In the interview, [Dmitri O. Rogozin, the director of Russia's space agency,] said Russia wanted to carry on joint flights with the United States and its allies, despite the tensions over election interference, wars in Syria and Ukraine, and the chemical weapons poisoning of a former double agent in Britain.
[...] Analysts say Moscow has a strong incentive to maintain the joint program: a decided lack of money to pursue a lunar station on its own. Russia's budget for its space program is something less than one-10th what the United States spends on NASA. [...] Russia's preference is to press on with a space program entwined with the United States', on either the lunar program or another venture, Mr. Rogozin said. But if talks fail, Russia can turn to China or India for partnership. There might then be two stations circling the Earth or the moon, one led by the United States the other a Russian-Chinese enterprise. Mr. Rogozin even floated the idea of a "BRIC station," the acronym for the developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Mr. Rogozin in November ordered the Russian Academy of Sciences to study the prospects for a solo Russian program to build a habitable base on the surface of the moon. Ivan M. Moiseyev, the director of the Institute of Space Policy in Moscow, said in a telephone interview that any proposal for a lone Russian lunar station was fantastical, given the budget constraints. "The technical capability exists, but the finances don't."
The U.S. and NASA could develop stronger partnerships with the European Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and Indian Space Research Organisation instead.
NASA Suspends Collaboration with Russia
Russia to Build New Space Station with NASA after ISS
NASA and International Partners Planning Orbital Lunar Outpost
NASA and Roscosmos Sign Joint Statement on the Development of a Lunar Space Station
Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway
Russian Space Chief Vows to Find "Full Name" of Technician Who Caused ISS Leak
NASA and Roscosmos Release Joint Statement on ISS Leak Amid Rumors
Head of Russian Space Agency Roscosmos Wavers on Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway
Soyuz Rocket Carrying Crew Successfully Launches and Docks with ISS
Related: Price War Between SpaceX and Russia
Summer Worden, a former Air Force intelligence officer living in Kansas, has been in the midst of a bitter separation and parenting dispute for much of the past year. So she was surprised when she noticed that her estranged spouse still seemed to know things about her spending. Had she bought a car? How could she afford that? Ms. Worden put her intelligence background to work, asking her bank about the locations of computers that had recently accessed her bank account using her login credentials. The bank got back to her with an answer: One was a computer network registered to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Ms. Worden's spouse, Anne McClain, was a decorated NASA astronaut on a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station. She was about to be part of NASA's first all-female spacewalk. But the couple's domestic troubles on Earth, it seemed, had extended into outer space. Ms. McClain acknowledged that she had accessed the bank account from space, insisting through a lawyer that she was merely shepherding the couple's still-intertwined finances. Ms. Worden felt differently. She filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and her family lodged one with NASA's Office of Inspector General, accusing Ms. McClain of identity theft and improper access to Ms. Worden's private financial records. Investigators from the inspector general's office have since contacted Ms. Worden and Ms. McClain, trying to get to the bottom of what may be the first allegation of criminal wrongdoing in space.
[...] One potential issue that could arise with any criminal case or lawsuit over extraterrestrial bank communications, Mr. Sundahl said, is discovery: NASA officials would be wary of opening up highly sensitive computer networks to examination by lawyers, for example. But those sorts of legal questions, he said, are going to be inevitable as people spend more time in outer space.
Welcome to the divorce of tomorrow!
Also at Space.com.