STORY WRITTEN TO CBS NEWS & USED WITH PERMISSION NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks at a meeting of the National…
STORY WRITTEN TO CBS NEWS & USED WITH PERMISSION
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks at a meeting of the National Space Council on Tuesday in Washington. Credit: NASA / Aubrey Gemignani
Russian engineers have a “really good idea” of what went wrong during a Soyuz launch to the International Space Station on October 11, which forced the crew’s two-man crew to carry out an emergency, said the NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine Tuesday. He added that he expects the Russians to continue piloted Soyuz flights in December.
“While our astronaut and their cosmonaut are home safe, they are not happy,” Bridenstine said during a meeting of the National Space Council with Vice President President Mike Pence. “They want to be at the International Space Station, and they can not wait to go again. So we are grateful for their enthusiasm. NASA reorganizes, we replicate and we get ready to go again.”
Soyuz MS-10 Commander Alexey Ovchinin and NASA air engineer Nick Haag were forced to cancel their launch to the station when one of the usually reliable Soyuz FG Booster’s four strap-on-first rockets apparently crashed into the base of the nuclear car in the second step during the separation two minutes after the liftoff.
The Soyuz crew’s computer discovered the problem and fired thrusters to quickly pull the ship away from the incorrect rocket. Ovchinin and The Hague surely landed about 250 miles from the launch site. But the abortion threw a wrench into the station’s carefully planned crew schedule, and while Ovchinin and The Hague are expected to fly again, it is not yet known when.
For more immediate concerns about NASA, the Russians and their international partners will be cleaned when the Soyuz rocket will be cleaned to resume flights. A Russian “government commission” investigating the accident is expected to report its findings around the end of the month.
Similar versions of the rocket are scheduled to fly in the next few weeks to launch a polar weathering satellite from Kourou, French Guiana, a Progress spacecraft supply vessel from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and a Russian navigation satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome.
All these rockets use identical or similar separation systems, and if all three flights go well, Russia could continue with the next launch of a space station crew as early as December 3rd.
“We have a number of Russian Soyuz rocket launches in the next half, and in December we are fully waiting to put our crew on a Russian Soyuz rocket to start the international space station again,” Bridenstine says. “We have a real , really good idea of what the question is. We are very close to understand it even better, so we can safely start again.
“It’s important to note that while this was an unsuccessful launch, it was probably the most successful failed launch we could have imagined.”
The Hague and Ovchinin had hoped to become a member of Expedition 57, Alexander Gerst, Serena Auñón Chancellor and Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev aboard the station. Gerst and his crew were launched aboard the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft in June and originally planned to return to Earth on December 13.
Three free crew members – Oleg Kononenko, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques and NASA astronaut Anne McClain – were expected to start December 20, join Ovchinin and The Hague aboard the lab complex.
A Soyuz rocket raises October 11 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Two minutes after the lifting, a rocket error triggered an emergency landing of the two-man crew on board. Credit: NASA / Bill Ingalls
Now, due to the launch canceled, the Russians must start Kononenkos crew before the schedule. Starting in the first week of December, the new crew would have time to carry out an orderly handover before helping Gerst and his crew to resign on December 20. They must leave in early January, or their Soyuz will exceed its
With the end of Gerst, Auñón-Chancellor and Prokopyev, the crew of Kononenkos will have the station to itself until April when another Soyuz crew is scheduled to Start.
The original aircraft demanded Oleg Skripochka, NASA’s Christina Koch and a United Arab Emirates guest astronaut to start April 5th. The UAE astronaut would have returned to Earth about 10 days later with The Hague and Ovchinin. Thanks to the launch canceled, it is not yet known who will fly to the station next spring or how the flights will be sequenced.
In the short term, NASA hopes to continue the launch of a Northrup Grumman Cygnus freight carrier at the top of an Antares booster from Virginia in mid-November, followed by the launch of a SpaceX Dragon Supply Ship on top of a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in December.
Two NASA spacecourses to install a second set of batteries for the space station solar system are on hold but are likely to be carried out after the Cononenko crew arrives in December.
A Russian spacecourse by Prokopyev and Kononenko for inspection of the Soyuz MS-09 ferry ship is likely to be carried out during the crew extension in December. A small leak in the spacecraft was found and fixed in September and Russian engineers want to find out how extensive the damage could have been and whether it was caused by deliberate action at any time during the spacecraft’s processing.