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November 2, 2018

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Russian space mishap blamed on sensor

The abortive launch last month of a manned Soyuz mission to space was caused by a sensor damaged during the rocket’s assembly at the cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Russian investigators said yesterday.

A Russian cosmonaut and a US astronaut were forced to scrap their mission on October 11 after a rocket bound for the International Space Station failed, sending them plunging back to Earth in an emergency landing.

Presenting findings of an official inquiry into the accident, chief investigator Igor Skorobogatov said two more Soyuz rockets might have the same defect. He said that new checks were now being introduced into the rocket assembly process.

The mishap occurred as the first and second stages of a Russian booster rocket separated around two minutes after liftoff from Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur.

“The reason for the abnormal separation ... was due to a deformation of the stem of the contact separation sensor,” Skorobogatov told reporters.

“It has been proven, fully confirmed that this happened specifically because of this sensor, and that could only have happened during the package’s assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome,” he said.

The accident was the first serious launch problem experienced by a manned Soyuz space mission since 1983, when a crew narrowly escaped before a launchpad explosion.


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