Friday, 18 Jan 2019

After the failure of a rocket, Russia accelerates its next launch. NASA says it's okay.

The smoke rises as the first elements of the Soyuz-FG rocket propel the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying a new crew to the International Space Station after launching in Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Dmitri Lovetsky / AP)

The Russians are going fast. After the malfunction of one of their rockets last month, causing an automatic abortion, Roscosmos, the county's space agency, says he knows what has happened and how to fix it. Instead of delaying the next flight with astronauts – originally scheduled for December 20 – the launch will take place on December 3.

Confident in his Russian counterpart, NASA has agreed. And Anne McClain, the next American astronaut in the flight rotation, says she is ready to tie up and leave. "I would have had Soyuz the next day," she told reporters on Friday.

On October 11, a Russian Soyuz rocket suffered a breakdown in less than three minutes of flight when one of the side recalls failed to separate properly and struck the rocket.

Roscosmos said the incident was caused by a damaged "deformed" sensor during the assembly of the rocket that had caused the problem of separating the booster. Since the accident, Russia has flown the unmanned Soyuz three times, restoring confidence in the system.

In an interview Friday, Jim Bridenstine, a NASA administrator, said Roscosmos had been "very transparent. They shared with us all the data we need to be comfortable and confident to understand the problem and solve it. "

He added that the flight had been moved in order to "allow our crew to get there as soon as possible", the mission having failed. Scott Kelly, the former NASA astronaut who spent almost a year in space, said it was logical since two of the three crew members of the next flight were "recruits" who never went into space. Arriving early at the station "would give the crew time to make an efficient transfer," he said. "I could see why they would like to fly earlier if they could do it safely."

Although heartbreaking, the latest mission was seen within NASA as a "very good launch launch," as Bridenstine said, as the crews returned to Earth safely. After the thruster collided with the rocket, the spacecraft immediately moved away from the rocket, causing astronauts – a Russian and an American – in a mad rush at the edge of space.

During the escape, the two men were returned to their headquarters and experienced 7 G, seven times the gravity. NASA astronaut Nick Hague recently told reporters the first thing he noticed "was shaken violently from one side to the other. The alarm sounded, a light flashed and "once I saw the light, I knew we had an emergency with the reminder".

The Hague and his Russian counterpart, Alexey Ovchinin, were also immediately recovered by the rescue teams, a far better result than a notorious abortion in 1975 when Soviet cosmonauts landed in a remote area in the east. from Russia and have almost dropped. on a cliff. (They were located a day later.But even when abortions go well, they are not supposed to happen in the first place. It was dangerously close to what is called in the jargon of the space industry a "bad day". Space travel carries inherent risks, but NASA and its partners are trying to reduce the risks.

It seems like it's a "pretty simple mounting mistake when they assembled the rocket," said Wayne Hale, former NASA space shuttle program manager. "It has nothing to do with basic design."

The incident follows the discovery of a small mysterious hole in a section.

The hole is the subject of a separate investigation by Roscosmos. The Russians have launched the idea of ​​sabotage. The hole had been clogged awkwardly after its creation and, in the event of the patch 's failure, a small air leak from the station had set off alarms. The hole has since been repaired and is no longer considered a threat to the return of Soyuz, because it is in part of the space shuttle dropped in space.

The two anomalies – the launch's failure and the Soyuz hole – are almost surely unrelated, according to industry experts. But this is a company that would like its current number of anomalies studied to be zero, not two.

Bridenstine said the pair of problems "raised questions", but did not want to comment until the investigation was over.

The incidents also recall that the Soyuz is the only way for man to get to the International Space Station. If the Soyuz were to remain on the ground for an extended period, NASA and its partners may have to temporarily abandon the station.

"I would not put the crew at risk to keep it crewed," said Mike Suffredini, president and CEO of Axiom Space, which develops private space stations.

Similarly, last month, a NASA safety advisory committee said that, wishing to stay on schedule, "there is potential for the workforce – strive to meet deadlines." unrealistic and pushing for everything to happen in the right way – will subtly erode the healthy decision-making launch dates are approaching. "

McClain said she was confident that Roscosmos had solved the problem by asking "the three important questions: what happened? Why did this happen? And how to make sure that does not happen again? No one was going to give the green light until all three questions were answered. "

Read more:

Astronauts escape painfully, but NASA is waiting for the bankruptcy of a Russian rocket

NASA chief: "No change" for the launch of a space station after the dramatic failure of the Soyuz rocket

Russia attributes the failure of a rocket to an error during assembly


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