The Good News Buried in Thursday’s Soyuz Rocket Failure

One of the most technologically beautiful things you’ll ever see is a Soyuz rocket screwing up. Soyuz rockets don’t screw up often — another beautiful thing — but one did Thursday at 2:40 PM local time, over the steppes of Kazakhstan. What unfolded was a master class in how things go right when things go wrong.

The rocket was intended to carry veteran Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and rookie NASA astronaut Tyler “Nick” Hague up to low-Earth orbit for a six month stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS), joining a crew of two astronauts and one cosmonaut already aboard. Two and a half minutes after launch, the four clusters of engines that surround the rocket’s core stage shut down and fell away as they are designed to do. The central core was then supposed to ignite and then carry the crew further.

That procedure is always a jolt for the crew, and a live-streaming camera inside the Soyuz spacecraft indeed showed Ovchinin and Hague getting knocked around a bit. But the knocking continued, and then Ovchinin called down “failure of the booster,” according to a CBS transcript.

It’s not clear yet what that failure was, but video taken from the ground showed the four clusters tumbling through the sky, which is normal, along with other unidentified debris, which isn’t.

At that moment, small rockets attached to a slender tower at the top of the Soyuz spacecraft that houses the crew did precisely what they were supposed to do, which was to ignite instantly and pull the capsule up and away from the malfunctioning rocket. “We are in weightlessness,” Ovchinin reported, as the spacecraft, at a safe distance, arced over and began a plunge to the ground.

NASA/Bill Ingalls—(NASA/Bill Ingalls)The Soyuz rocket is launched with Expedition 57 Flight Engineer Nick Hague of NASA and Flight …read more

Source:: Time – Science


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