A Russian Soyuz FG rocket carrying a veteran cosmonaut and a NASA astronaut on his first space flight blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday for a trip to the International Space Station, but the booster suffered an apparent failure shortly after liftoff, triggering an emergency abort and descent to Earth.
NASA commentator Brandi Dean in NASA mission control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston reported the Soyuz MS-10 capsule had made an emergency landing after a "ballistic" descent, a normal but steeper-than-usual trajectory back to Earth. Dean said the Soyuz descent module landed near the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, a familiar staging point for support personnel in normal Soyuz re-entries from space. Dean reported recovery crews were in radio contact with Alexey Ovchin and Nick Hague and that both crew members were in good condition.
She said that while the Soyuz crew would have been "subjected to higher G-forces" during to the ballistic descent, it is a "known mode of descent" that the crew would have been versed in.
A problem with the Soyuz MS-10/56S's booster was behind the aborted mission, Dean said from Johnson Space Center. The crew reported at one point, relayed through a Russian translator, they were weightless as the capsule flew free on its own.
.@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. Full statement below: pic.twitter.com/M76yisHaKF— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) October 11, 2018
This was the first launch mishap for a Russian Soyuz booster since an on-pad abort in August 1983 that subjected two crew members to 17 times the force of gravity as the capsule was pulled away from an exploding booster. An earlier abort forced a different crew to land in Mongolia in 1975.
Thursday's mission began with an on-time liftoff at 4:40 a.m. EDT. Climbing to the east under a clear sky, the Soyuz put on a spectacular show as it smoothly accelerated toward space atop a long jet of brilliant flame from its central core stage and four liquid-fueled strap-on boosters.