May not be what we wanted to happen, but everyone got home safely. That's a win in my book, glad the emergency systems are working as intended.
I wonder what it’s like for the astronauts. One moment you’re sitting in a rocket ready to spend the next six months in space, you’ve said your goodbyes, you’re thinking about what it will be like, what sorts of pictures you want to take, what you’ll say when you make that first phone call home from space... and then ten minutes later you stumble out into the Kazakh wilderness and start scanning the sky for rescue helicopters.
"Months of boredom punctuated by moments of terror."
I imagine you are happily doing 3, maybe 4 G's, then an alarm sounds and suddenly the escape system (or mission control, your the commander) decides you are not going to space after all, adds 10 G's or so to what you are already doing for a couple seconds, then a couple seconds of free fall until the parachutes open, then the final kick when you are about to land.
They had a very bad day.
At least it's not a very long time inside a Soyuz. I don't think I fit inside one.
I think their first indication that something was wrong was that they felt weightless at a time when they should've been experiencing 4g's. Apparently after the abort they still stayed under 7g
Yes. It happened right after they ejected the escape rocket (which is probably terrifying to use), so they used the stage separation mechanism.
That's a much gentler experience, provided the booster doesn't explode.
Jep, the escape system is definitely not a walk in the park. As far as I know, the Soyuz escape system is the only one that was deployed with people inside, in the Soyuz T-10a accident. Suffice to say, the cosmonauts didn't like it very much. They got between 14g-17g for 5 seconds, which removed them 4km downwards from the exploding launch vehicle.
After landing safely (and being badly bruised), they asked for cigarettes and were given shots of Vodka. 
addding a little insult to injury, they landed 400km away from their base, in the very middle of god knows where...
"A few hundred miles."
Yea, wonder if they felt disappointed or relieved. Regardless, they are part of a very small club of "astronaut's whose rocket broke during launch and are still alive". I wonder who else is in that club?
The crew of STS-51-F although they aborted to orbit.
Here is the broadcast of that mission: https://youtu.be/JSbMs_OnE4c?t=3m8s
Classic, the sensors whose purpose is to ensure that something doesn't kill you, actually become the things that almost kill you.
Apollo 12 crew, if you count a lightning strike taking out the electronics of the vehicle, but not rocket.
I honestly cannot think of any such incident happening in all the years of space exploration. Crewed or not-crewed capsule. And I've watched enough documentaries on Apollo and other space programs.
It's the beginning of a very very small, exclusive club, one that will hopefully not be too big.
Learned something new today.
The other Soyuz incident in 1983 was Soyuz 7K-ST No.16L, sometimes known as Soyuz T-10a or T-10-1.
Found below from wiki.
It was an unsuccessful Soyuz mission intended to visit the Salyut 7 space station, which was occupied by the Soyuz T-9 crew. However, it never finished its launch countdown; the launch vehicle was destroyed on the launch pad by fire on September 26, 1983. The launch escape system of the Soyuz spacecraft fired two seconds before the launch vehicle exploded, saving the crew. It is the first case in which a launch escape system has been fired with a crew aboard.
In early US space program, in one of the test flights before Apollo program, a 2 stage rocket failed mid flight. The rocket escape system attached on top of the capsule fired and successfully saved the capsule. But there was no crew in the capsule.
Just watched this PBS special on the US space program. Pretty interesting footage.
The best part about that Apollo test flight is that it was intended to be a test of the escape system, but it was not intended to involve the rocket exploding underneath the capsule. It ended up being an even better test of the escape system than was planed.
There have been some other, less consequential manned launch failures.
Apollo 12 was struck by lightning during ascent, and only some quick thinking saved the mission.
Apollo 13 suffered extreme vibration in the second stage center engine that nearly tore the rocket apart. (This is unrelated to the more famous problem Apollo 13 experienced later in the mission.) Fortunately the vibrations messed with sensors which caused the engine to shut down, and the launch continued on the remaining four.
STS-51-F lost an engine a few minutes after launch. It was still able to make orbit on the remaining engines, but ended up in a lower orbit than planned.
They mention another Soyuz accident in the article.
Aborted takeoffs and go arounds are generally routine in avaiation right? Surely using an abort mechanism is preferable to killing the passengers and crew. I see nothing wrong with adding some names to the list of people who survived.
I did not mean to come across as saying I want escape systems to not work.
With space launch systems, any use of escape system is dangerous and best to avoid. I think it will be a long time before aborting/escaping from botched space launch and recovery will be as routine as aborted takeoffs and go arounds.
Just to compare the two a bit more: NASA’s requirements for the Commercial Crew program (where Boeing and SpaceX are building capsules to visit ISS) is for a loss of crew probability of 1 in 270. Note that this isn’t an abort probability, it’s the probability that everyone dies despite the abort system’s best efforts.
The probability for commercial airliners is something around 1 in 100 million.
Something similar happened with another Soyuz in 1983, right?
The Soyuz T-10-1 launch in 1983, maybe? The escape system launched minutes before the explosion on the launching pad happened.
2 to 6 seconds before the explosion, not minutes.
> I wonder what it’s like for the astronauts.
It is better to be on the ground wishing that you were in orbit, than to be in orbit wishing that you were on the ground.
I would not be surprised if the astronauts go into a launch fully expecting a malfunction, even though the soyuz hasn't had a failure since 1983 if wikipedia is to be believed.
The reason astronauts are trained so much is so that they know what to do in case of equipment malfunction. So, yes, they all go into launches hoping that everything will work, but being ready when it doesn't.
All that training in fluent, technical Russian, as the manuals haven't been translated.
The spaceship wasn't on a launch which involved failure, since 1983. Soyuz rocket fails once every few years. Just the crewed launched were lucky (and also crewed rockets are checked better + in many cases, older, lower performance, but better tested AND downrated for increased reliability, mods were used).
For example, Progress ship (very close in design to Soyuz ship, unmanned ship to deliver supplies, not recoverable) failed less than 2 years ago due to launcher failure.
Crewed rockets are Soyuz-FG, other rockets used to be Soyuz-U, then Soyuz-2, variations Soyuz-2.1a and Soyuz-2.1b . Those are slightly different rockets - mainly engines of first stage (four booster parts) are different (if I'm not mistaken) and 3rd stage is different.
I suspect they've mentally prepared for far worse outcomes. Space is cool, but the Kazahk wilderness sure beats the third option.
There are more than 500 people visited the space. Not many people experienced the rocket failure and lives to tell about it.
The Challenger and the Columbia both had catastrophic failures during launch and re-entry respectively. Of course those were shuttles and not rockets, but still as far as space flight goes, the statistics were against them.
The Challenger crew is thought to have to survived the initial explosion, though how long they would have remained conscious is questioned. The collision with the ocean is what killed them, not the explosion.
Worth noting: launch escape tower was jettisoned nominally moments before the failure. Escape was via the capsule separation mechanism followed by ballistic then parachute descent. If the booster had exploded, the crew would have been in extreme danger.
Boosters don't really "explode". When ruptured they burn really fast, but (assuming engine shutdown and non-malfunctioning capsule separation) at such high altitude there is not that much danger from simple conflagration.
Sure, in _very_ rare case engines might not shut down or something else might get broken, but "If the booster had exploded, the crew would have been in extreme danger." seems too over the top. Launch escape tower is jettisoned for a reason ...
Was jettisoning the escape tower at that moment planned, or was that a failure?
Normal the tower is used for launch pad abort and for a very short window afterwards.
The Soyuz launch abort system is actually quite robust probably the best launch abort system that has been implemented for manned flight so far with the Orion and Crew Dragon only marginally improving on it and even that is still not clear given those haven’t been flown yet alone actually used in practice yet.
It hasn't flown any missions, but Crew Dragon has had its launch pad abort tested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcHD9AmkxA0
Yes, but there is a difference between being tested and being used. On paper the Crew Dragon launch abort system is slightly better since it doesn't rely on an escape tower for launch pad abort but in reality it's not clear how much better and safer for the crew the whole thing would be.
I'm not sure if having eight high-pressure hydrazine engines (which must work in perfect sync) inches apart from the crew is safer than a classic launch escape tower with a single solid booster on top.
Do other types of rocket engines not need to be in perfect sync?
A classic launch escape system doesn't. It has several exhausts, but it's a single booster.
The original plan for Crew Dragon was to have it land with rockets like a rocket should, instead of with parachutes. They also wanted to have a design that could also land on Mars. Safety first NASA didn't allow that plan. Not sure if rockets are still powerful enough to do a powered landing coming from orbit. I hope so and that tourists will have the option of returning that way even if NASA astronauts don't.
They will not develop powered landing. SuperDraco or not, one of the main obstacles was the difficulty and risk of putting legs through the heatshield.
Smaller Dracos are used for in-orbit maneuvering. SuperDracos are now solely for launch abort. They could conceivably be used for an orbital maneuver requiring more delta-v than the fine-tuning the Dracos do, but at this point the only likely destination for Dragon is the ISS.
One advantage is that you avoid having to jettison the escape tower which would add some complexity and risk.
Also, the engines are designed for use in space during a normal mission and to be recovered. So in that configuration the crew would still need to be located close to a hydrazine thruster as a part of a normal flight.
> eight high-pressure hydrazine engines (which must work in perfect sync)
There's eight for redundancy, it's a fault-tolerant system.
There are 8 independent engines, IIRC, mounted two by two. I think they are controlled in pairs, one on each side of the craft so as to avoid an engine on one side not knowing its counterpart on the other side failed and forcing the capsule to spin instead of fly away from the faulty booster.
Orion has also done a pad abort test, for what it's worth.
Why does Lockheed's official video look like it was filmed by my uncle on his VHS camcorder?
Looks like someone is recording a video feed broadcast via a projector onto a dark wall with a cellphone or camera. Probably a cellphone from 8yrs ago.
Off-topic, but, a cellphone from 8 years ago is the iPhone 4. Isn't that crazy to think about?
We're way off topic at this point. I think the iPhone 4's video quality would be better.
Regardless it's a video recording of a video being projected onto a wall. The cellphone quality is the least important part of my comment and has improved dramatically in quality on the average smart over 8yrs (iPhone tends to be leading edge and that phone was brand new at the time which not everyone has).
Planned (nominal). See here:
It's so bizarre that in NASA-speak the word nominal means not the value that a parameter should have ("in name") but the fact that the parameter is within a specified tolerance of that value. It's like a contraction of "<value> is what it should be, according to its formal definition". https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/184876/how-did-n...
SNAFU, so to speak.
Cheesy aviation idiom: "Any landing you walk away from is a good landing, any landing you can use the plane again is a great landing."
I agree. Knowing and trusting the fail safes is a good thing.
I guess I've watched too many movies and TV shows where "activating the failsafe" means everyone gets killed.
YOU WILL NOT GO TO SPACE TODAY https://xkcd.com/1133/
Commercial Crew might be moved forward a bit. SpaceX claims to have hardware ready and be prepared for a December launch, but that was pushed to January due to conflicting visiting vehicles. Obviously the visiting vehicle schedule will be reworked during the investigation, so that might open up a window for them to launch in December.
Here's Chris Hadfield (someone who has flown on this spacecraft before) discussing the event:
"The three people... on the space station, they are basically marooned there."
What? They have their own Soyuz capsule, they have means to return to Earth on a very short notice, why Chris need to call it this?
The ISS isn't capable of being ran unmanned for any significant length of time. Yes they could escape in an emergency, but they're not going to be leaving "normally" until their replacements can arrive. And that won't be for a while, because as Chris explains in the video, there are no other launch vehicles ready to go beside the Soyuz, and it might be a while before the defect is identified and fixed.
They can't outstay the orbital lifespan of the capsule currently docked. They'll be leaving when it's time to leave (unless a new (empty) Soyuz is launched to replace it (something that has happened once before)).
Yeah, from what I understand, the options are basically to either get a new return vehicle up there before December, or abandoning the station.
It's a bad situation to be in. The end of ISS is certainly an option. I don't think they'll ever let astronauts stay there with an expired return vehicle.
They might be willing to stretch it a little (but probably not much). The limiting factor is decomposition of the hydrogen peroxide used as propellant for the descent module. They can technically get down without it, but it would be a rougher (and riskier) ride.
I wouldn't be excited to return to Earth in that particular Soyuz
It's the only one there. The current crew will be using it to return to earth at some point. The manufacturing defect is in a portion of the spacecraft that is jettisoned before reentry anyway.
The hole is drilled in the orbital compartment of the Soyuz, not in the landing capsule. If you don't forget your spacesuit - which you shouldn't forget anyway - you're reasonably safe.
To be reasonably safe in space is a rather good measure... I do see your point though.
Yeah, he even goes on to say that later....
This may prove very problematic.
The next crew launches are scheduled for December, April and July.
Assuming that an investigation takes a year, that means a lot of missed flights and no way to reach the ISS until Boeing/SpaceX are ready.
What does this mean for people at the ISS? There are definitely people there now, right? I'd imagine this doesn't change their schedules for return?
The current deadline for their return is the on-orbit lifespan of their return capsule. It's possible that grounding "crewed" flights doesn't mean grounding all flights. An uncrewed capsule could be sent up (they dock autonomously), and the missions of the on-station crews could be extended. Something similar has been done in the past due to a suspected fault in the on-orbit capsule.
What a world we live in that we have space capsules that can dock autonomously....
The Russians have done it since the beginning of space capsules.
> It's possible that grounding "crewed" flights doesn't mean grounding all flights
This is what I figured / assumed but I didn't want to act like I actually knew as basically everything I'm saying is an assumption. Thank you!
One of the ways you can land a Soyuz is basically an uncontrolled crash land. It is so dependable compared to any other spaceship that I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes an emergency return capsule, after it stops being the main spaceship used to reach the ISS.
It already is.
There are currently 3 people in space  and they are there for 127 days on the ISS.
1 : https://www.howmanypeopleareinspacerightnow.com
Their Soyuz capsule is the one with a drilled hole in it, though there's no indication that will affect descent.
It's like the space equivalent of fielding a fleet of shitboxes as your daily driver(s).
One Soyoz has a hole. The other Soyuzes won't run because safety. You scrapped the shuttle a few years ago. You haven't finished assembling your SpaceX project car yet. Little Jimmy is going to have to hold the flashlight for daddy while he fixes a shitbox so mommy can get to work in the morning (metaphorically speaking of course, because space).
This seems deeply unfair and dismissive of the accomplishments of the people who built Soyuz. Soyuz is a proven reliable spacecraft, it’s not a shitbox.
Who is little jimmy or daddy in this analogy? Why can’t mommy fix her own car? I don’t see the connection to human spaceflight.
> Soyuz is a proven reliable spacecraft, it’s not a shitbox.
I was going to say... It might not be flashy and shiny and new but what else is really important when you are doing space travel? Personally I'd rather have the indestructable, boxy, non-aerodynamic 1995 Jeep Cherokee and its inline V6 engine than some brand new "2.4L Tigershark® MultiAir® 2 I4 Engine with Electronic Stop/Start (ESS) Technology".
All of those adjectives / descriptors after the "2.4L" look and sound nice but beside looking fancy is there any merit to them being added? Most people in and around the Jeep car scene / motor heads / people with decent car knowledge KNOW that Jeep's Inline V6 was nearly indestructible. They lasted forever when properly maintained (regular oil changes, fluid changes, and tune ups) and could take loads of abuse. Most other things in and on the car would wear out and/or burn out (things like electronics) before the engine and transmission would even become an issue at all.
That said, in 2018, there are lots of reasons a 1995 Jeep Cherokee isn't the ideal car. Namely gas mileage, lack of aerodynamics, weight and weight distribution (materials and generally being overweight), and so on. Even knowing all of that I'm sure if paying for gas wasn't a major issue lots of people who had Jeep Cherokees in the past would love to have a properly running one again for one simple reason:
Reliability and dependability. What else really matters? I'd definitely trade in the offset in cost at purchase time for a gas guzzler if the cost winds up the same or the scale even tilts toward the Jeep if you consider all of the upkeep and maintenance costs included, after purchase, for another vehicle.
The Soyuz, if nothing else, is extremely reliable. If I were an astronaut that's the main thing I'd be worried about and if I had any say it'd be the one thing I absolutely required -- for obvious reasons.
What a metaphor. Thanks for making me imagine space Ladas.
the hole is not on a part that comes back to earth.
wow, interesting investigation.
reminds me of this scene from the movie Innerspace
Thank you so much, drinchev!
It might; at least part of them. I presume they have contingency plans for exactly this situation. Probably leave a skeleton crew up there until either a new crew can be launched or the station has to be abandoned (supply missions are probably not a problem, but the Soyuz return capsules have a limited ”shelf life”).
They have a single return capsule there. They can't leave anyone without a return/rescue boat, so they all have to return together and leave the station empty. And as you said they can't extend stay for a year because Soyuz has limited life.
Oops, right, they’re in the middle of crew change and there’s only three of them and one Soyuz up right now. That does complicate matters.
Isn’t that Soyuz the one with the patched hole?
the hole is in the orbital module that gets ditched before reentry so it's not a problem
You really hope that is the only defect. Considering inspection missed this, what else did they miss?
More concerned with serenas hole with them two dudes up there with her for 127 days
"skeleton crew" unfortunate term.
My bet is that they'll send the next Soyuz without crew.
A lot of research that will have to be postponed or scrapped :(
April is SpaceX crew launch.
Delayed again - SpaceX is now at June 2019, and Boeing at August.
Those delays were to accommodate the station's schedule. It's possible this event may lead to an "undelay"
ISS scheduling is responsible for at most one month of that slip - DM-1's capsule will be ready in December, and was set to launch NET January because of station availability.
Given that it's currently mid-October, moving up a month from January to December represents a pretty substantial chunk of the remaining time (I'm not suggesting NASA or SpaceX are willing, able, or interested in doing this, but it's not impossible)
Depends on your baseline. Compared to their projected crewed launch of June, it's well within the margin of delays.
Did you know that Douglas G. Hurley launches with Dragon 2 and he was also on the last STS flight? Nice continuity.
That's made my day a little brighter - thanks!
"The Soyuz capsule has landed back on Earth carrying two crew members. Search and rescue teams are in contact with the crew and are en route to the landing location."
"Search and rescue teams report they are in contact with the Soyuz crew, who report they are in good condition. The teams are en route to the landing site."
"You can be sure Soyuz launches will be grounded indefinitely. Commercial Crew has to conduct a successful uncrewed launch next year before flying astronauts to the ISS (and no - they will not 'fast track' anything that involves crew safety)."
Boeing decided years ago to certify their in-flight abort using simulation only, and NASA let them.
SpaceX probably can't create a simulation in a few months to not need in-flight abort test because developing a simulation that NASA would consider "proof" probably takes years.
NASA has indicated today they are not going to rush commercial crew , to not press SpaceX and Boeing into go-fever which NASA has learned is very dangerous.
Because the timing of SpaceX DM-1 (uncrewed demo flight of crewed Dragon 2) depends on ISS visiting vehicle schedule, it might move to the left if visiting vehicle schedule gets reshuffled.
NASA has indicated in today's briefing that crew must be present on station to oversee commercial crew tests , so if ISS is de-crewed in December, SpaceX DM-1 can't go in January as scheduled.
3 - https://twitter.com/ChrisG_NSF/status/1050423979561824256
1 - https://twitter.com/ChrisG_NSF/status/1050423063655768065
2 - https://twitter.com/ChrisG_NSF/status/1050421610270752768
So somebody stows-away aboard DM-1 and then claims ownership of the ISS by right of possession. :-) That would make for an excellent young adult adventure novel.
I'm pretty sure that's when the US Airforce launches the X-37b and claims ownership by repossession.
Yeah but they can't have anyone on board the X-37b, how can the claim possession? (just keeping the plot line interesting here)
I dunno, there's probably a cargo bay in it. Stuff an airman in there with a couple of tanks of oxygen and a rifle.
Instead of Repo Man, it's Repo Drone?
An excellent follow up to the YA movie Space Camp, which is very fun. I’d read/watch that!
> SpaceX probably can't create a simulation in a few months to not need in-flight abort test because developing a simulation that NASA would consider "proof" probably takes years.
SpaceX has the benefit of having a bunch of pre-flown rockets lying around. It may be cheaper to refurbish and do a real in-flight abort test than create a suitable simulation.
>Personally I'm very impressed with the reliability of the Soyuz system.
I was surprised to learn that the abort was performed manually by the Cosmonaut and that it happened after the escape tower had been jettison. They apparently used the "RUS" system that is using thrusters on the fairing.
I wasn't able to find hardly any information about the post-escape-tower-jettisoning abort mechanism. Do you know somewhere I can read about it?
In another thread I read the Soyuz is designed to stay in orbit for 200 days, which is in December for the one currently attached to ISS. So unless we can get a spaceship up to ISS by December, the crew has to return in December and the ISS will be left unmanned.
Can the Soyuz capsule be launched and docked while un-manned? If all doesn't go well with the investigation, they could do an un-manned launch to get an empty capsule up there to replace the currently docked capsule.
Yes, it can. That is the most likely scenario, IMHO.
Rescheduling the SpaceX in-flight abort test would be tricky; they were planning to reuse the Dragon capsule from the uncrewed test flight, which also hasn't happened yet. (Boeing does not have an in-flight abort test scheduled at all, but they have a ground abort test pending, in addition to their uncrewed test flight -- and they otherwise seem to be further behind than SpaceX.)
It could go either way actually, depending on how people feel about potential outcomes. Things could be pushed up a bit to try to accelerate getting new crew rotation capabilities in place. Or things could be pushed back to avoid extra workload and pressure on a short-staffed station.
But I believe there are 6 people on the station. Is there enough capacity for all of them?
There are only three right now. The usual procedure is to have enough Soyuz capacity for everyone on the station, so when the station has 6 people, there are two Soyuz.
I love that fact that there are "usual procedures" when it comes to humans going back and forth to our 20-year-old SPACE STATION!
Maybe we don't have the space program of our dreams. But we've certainly accomplished the goal of having "routine" operations in space over a long period of time. How much have humans learned in that time!
Unfortunately(and it's truly unsexy science) not much compared to twenty years of unmanned space exploration.
Everyone loves the idea of humans in space, but we learn so much more from robots and computers it makes the manned programs such a waste...
Without heroes the public will turn against it and not give a damn about robots and computers. I think we need manned space programs to keep the momentum going. Otherwise everyone will be like "why are we in space when the homeless don't have homes". I know it's stupid logic but that the way the masses think quite often.
Most people I know were, and still are, pretty excited about Spirit and Opportunity. Those were exciting robots at the time. Especially the fact that they worked for so long! 14 YEARS. The design is validated, let's have an assembly line cranking them out and tweaking them.
We learn a lot more about how to do manned space flight from actual manned spaceflight than from robotic missions though.
No amount of unmanned exploration can help when the question is, "How soon can I vacation (or conduct business) in space?"
Next, we'll have real-life gritty action heroes who admit to "making it up as I go along?" (Actually, that was Neil Armstrong when we manually piloted the first lunar landing.)
Nothing in space in usual or "safe". There is always a relatively large chance that you can end up in a fireball relative to say getting on an airplane or driving to work. I wouldn't ever take space for granted at this point.
Also I believe the seats are all custom shaped for each astronaut's body. I'm sure in dire circumstances they could use a capsule that wasn't designed for them, but it's very much a case of each astronaut having a very specific seat designated for the ride home, rather than "do we have enough seats".
The seats can be removed and swapped. They can, and have, gone back on different vehicles than they went up on.
The custom seats mean you cannot use someone else's. You wouldnt fit (if too big) and would obstruct things. I may be possible, but would never be part of any plan. There are also weight/balance issues to consider.
so you better not have that last gallon of ben and jerry's before you take off for your 6 month space station stint.
Presumably this will push up the schedule for the live abort tests for the SpaceX and Boeing systems. That would appear to be the "nut" in the schedule before those systems become operational.
Of course there is still a Soyuz attached to the Space Station and it can return the crew, but that that would leave the station unmanned. Not something it is really designed for as I understand it. And even before that drastic call is made we can still send supplies up so it isn't like they would be in danger of running out of stuff.
Personally I'm very impressed with the reliability of the Soyuz system. Still I would love to have Boeing and SpaceX get certified sooner rather than later.
I want to remind everybody that Soyuz spacecraft - including the one with the famous drilled hole in the orbital module - is manufactured in Energiya, Korolev - about an hour drive from Moscow. The Soyuz-FG rocket - the one used and malfunctioned in today's launch - is manufactured by Progress in Samara, a major industrial center on Volga river, about 17 hours by rail from Moscow. Rocket design is traced back to Energiya historically, but Progress was making them last 40+ years.
Soyuz-FG is planned to be replaced with modified version of the rocket, Soyuz-2. Soyuz-2 is already used for launches of unmanned supply ship, Progress. Yes, I know, a lot of similar names makes things confusing.
Seems like madness to me. The Soyuz is very well proven at this point. I'd happily hop straight on board the next one even after this incident, which is more than I can say for SpaceX - don't get me wrong, I have every faith in them and am personally a big fan, but the numbers are heavily in Soyuz' favour.
Even if the design is well-tested, there may be a new process issue in the rocket's construction that is undiagnosed.
Maybe there is a new person on the assembly line that doesn't know not to pinch o-rings when assembling fuel tubing? Maybe a swaging tool has worn out to the point that it is causing leaks? Maybe the vendor who supplies body panel rivets got a bad batch of aluminum? There are so may possible situations that it is not worth risking launches or lives over until a root cause has been found.
I do doubt those scenarios. The other capsules have all flown very well over the years and this one's safety system worked perfectly well.
First let me agree that spaceflight is hard, even the billions that NASA spends has led to so many disasters.
The problem there is with manufacturing and quality control. They've had endless problems with other recent rockets and it's natural to think their qualty problems hit this time. Spaceflight is one of the few area where the us and Russia are cooperating and I hope this isn't the end. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2013/07/10/200775748...
I would agree for the most part. I also would want to see a successful DM1 flight before hopping aboard a crewed SpaceX flight.
But with recent events around Soyuz I'd be slightly hesitant there as well. A year ago I would have fully agreed with you, but the infamous drilled hole, now this - I'd at least wait for the investigation to return a reason of failure to be able to determine whether I'd feel safe. If it's again human error during construction, I probably wouldn't get on board.
You have to realize that USSR and early Russia launches and now are two different animals. Soviet era specialists either died or retired or are old and about to retire the new gen. are not even remotely comparable plus all corroding corruption is running rampant.
This is true. The USSR, at one point, had (by far) the best education system in the world. Now it's nowhere near being in the top 5.
Progress and Soyuz don't use the same launch vehicle. Progress currently uses Soyuz-2 booster (Soyuz-2.1a specifically) while Soyuz uses Soyuz-FG.
Soyuz 2 is a new generation booster that has a pretty bad track record due to the quality control issues. Soyuz-FG is old generation booster that had a perfect track record until now.
Maybe this incident will open up the ISS schedule to allow SpaceX to do their DM-1 test flight sooner.
NASA doesn't normally push timelines up like that.
They aren't "holding back" SpaceX, the validation, testing, and scheduling mostly has little to do with others, and more to do with validating SpaceX alone.
The latest messaging was actually exactly this - that they had a milestone of readiness for DM-1 set for December, but that launch couldn't happen until January because of ISS docking schedule availability. It's not a big difference, but it could shave off a few weeks on the margins.
Thats fair! I just keep seeing a lot of comments whenever something happens about how "SpaceX might get to launch sooner", and it kinda annoys me because there's a pretty well set schedule and they aren't going to cut corners just because an opportunity arose.
You are right though that scheduling might let this move up a bit.
What about the Chinese? They've launched people into space.
The Chinese are excluded from the ISS. Their Tianzhou spacecraft is a direct Soyuz descendant, so it might be possible to dock it to the ISS, but this was not a part of the plan so it hasn't been designed for it, much less tested.
Plus I also don't see the Trump administration asking China for help anytime soon...
The US would collaborate with China on this if it would make financial sense. It could even be an opportunity to straight things out a bit.
That being said, I agree that it's not going to happen. First, Tianzhou is currently cargo-only, for which there are enough alternatives. Second, the US is close to getting back their own human access to space (through Boeing and SpaceX), and that would probably be ready before sufficient restructuring & testing on Tianzhou is completed.
Edit: Shenzhou is the human rated version of Tianzhou, so the main question would be whether it can dock with the ISS. (There's not just the dock itself that has to fit, but there's additional limitation on what kind of maneuverability system can be used close to the ISS). Also, the next Shenzhou flight was originally scheduled for 2018 and got delayed to 2020 - so this is highly unlikely going to be an option (No Mark-Watney-style rescue is required unless the docked Soyuz modules are 'grounded' as well)
It'll be interesting for how long this will ground the Soyuz fleet.
The next scheduled Soyuz launch is Progress 71P on October 31st. I'm curious if that's going to happen, considering crewed and cargo use the same launch vehicle.
There's also 3 more (unmanned) flights scheduled for Soyuz in November (MetOp C, Glonass M and EgyptSat-A) - so there might be pressure to find/"solve" the problem as quickly as possible.
The next human flight is scheduled for December 20th (ISS 57S).
It's sad to see them so disappointed! They were lucky as fuck considering that the incident happened approximately when the escape tower gets jettisoned (i.e. it wouldn't have been an option even if the booster RUDs), but I'd probably disappointed as well when I'm planning on getting the most amazing views possible for months, but get a short high-force roller coaster ride instead.
They are indeed lucky and unlucky AF.
Lucky to be alive after such an incident.
Unlucky to have gotten on top of a Soyuz rocket system that failed, when it's been proven to be so incredibly reliable all these years.
>Crew now in helicopters and heading back to the launch site, not Moscow. Nick will be picked up by NASA and flown to the States.
UPD Crew photos:
On one hand, it's indeed odd to hear that shit's on fire whilst the screen shows an all happy scenario; On the other hand, it's the cheaper way of doing things - instead of having to live-render the spacecraft and all telemetry that you need to get from a probably isolated system, just play a video. Trajectory and events are predetermined, so unless something goes wrong, the video is fully sufficient.
I'm reminded a bit of the moment when I learned that the action movie heroes are just actors.
I do agree on the cheap and pragmatic approach, yet they could display actual telemetry over the 3d render. Speeds do not match reality in graphs. It is not a movie but Science to me here.
I'd love to hear from a SpaceX engineer if their webcasts indeed shows live telemetry (speed / altitude) or not. Also SpaceX's webcasts illustrations looks like they run in a game engine which is both cheap and highly customizable with input data.
Yes, SpaceX puts a lot more effort into the webcasts. I don't know if their telemetry is live or precomputed (though it is likely live, see below) - but the fact that they show live feed of the rocket rather than a simulation (except for Stage 2 coasting periods where they render the spacecrafts' orbit) already gives the entire display a different feel. (At this point it's also important to note that this live feed got them into trouble once ).
I also agree with your sentiment that the movie removes a bit of the scientific aspect.
Insert here a good 30 minutes spent on watching launch footage and writing down numbers
Ok, at this point I'm deep in looking at launch footage, and I'm more disappointed by the Soyuz launch footage. Whilst it's possible that they followed the exact same launch trajectory (on paper and reality), it's unlikely: MS-08  and MS-09  had the exact same speed, altitude and downrange distance throughout the time telemetry was visible. In contrast, SpaceX showed very different telemetry during launches to the ISS (, , ). Also, it doesn't seem pre-computed: The telemetry during the CRS-7 webcast  at least doesn't just continue when the rocket explodes, indicating that it doesn't just display pre-computed numbers.
In Soyuz' defense: They probably have a different (older?) system to get telemetry, and it might bear additional challenges to feed them into a publicly accessible live-stream.
> They probably have a different (older?) system to get telemetry, and it might bear additional challenges to feed them into a publicly accessible live-stream.
That is correct. Proton-M launches, on the other hand, had a live stream with probably the most detailed telemetry ever. That particular stream wasn't public, but was available to anyone on request.
Is there a recording available somewhere or an image of how it looked?
Here's a screenshot of their lowres public telemetry stream dated back to 2009 (Eutelsat W7, if I remember correctly).  Unfortunately I don't have any screenshots or recordings of the by-request one, but it had tons of info, down to the bus voltages. The L2 section of nasaspaceflight.com might have something available, but I'm not sure.
They seem to have closed it somewhere around 2014 or 2015, possibly to avoid bad publicity or speculations.
Thanks for the link and info. Will d some more looking later this evening.
SpaceX has lost a vehicle in flight before, CRS-7, so we actually have a comparison.
On mobile so sorry if it isn't the best link. The failure happens as the vehicle cross the 44km altitude mark I believe. So you can scrub to that point.
The telemetry does seem to get "stuck" during the explosion.
I noticed that too; My best guess is that the display just sticks to what it last knew if it doesn't get any updates, and the leaking LOX from the 2nd stage caused enough damage or interference to interrupt communication. It's at least my assumption, since the 1st stage continued to fire (i.e. accelerate) until some 8 seconds later, according to the NASA report  (Page 3)
Spacex telemetry is live. People use it to calculate things like flight path and performance of each launch.
I remember one of the live ISRO launches I was watching some 10 years ago on television, and the white blinking spot went off the parabolic curve after few seconds. I was like, "is everything OK?". Audio went into data-only dictation, no dictation and such... and than suddenly rocket exploded. I was in tears.
It amazes me how calm and collected those cosmonauts seem to be as the literal rocket they’re riding is falling apart. They’re reading out the time and levels and they’re careening back to Earth; “weightlessness in our sensations”
They have trained extensively for all kinds of events and outcomes, including this one. As Chris Hadfield noted, emotions would most likely be frustration about not being able to do the work they've trained for for months, but not panic about the launch vehicle failing.
What you are seeing there is not real time telemetry, but simulated data of what should be at certain point.
This video has the crew audio with a translator.
It amazes me that the telemetry is faked (all is good and well), yet the audio is legit.
The Soyuz-FG which has been used since 2001 has had a 100% success rate till today. Seems pretty good to me.
The parent post argument wasn't about the quality of Soyuz-FG design, we know that this has been tested, tweaked, verified and is very reliable.
The quality control of the current manufacturing team, on the other hand, seems not the same as it was for the earlier Soyuz vehicles.
I agree that the Soyuz has been very reliable historically, but two major incidents involving it within a few weeks has the appearance of a trend.
Soyuz is literally the most reliable launch vehicle and two datapoints are not a trend. Any two datapoints form a line, ie a trend.
> Any two datapoints form a line, ie a trend.
Two datapoints are not a trend.
People who use run charts (control charts,time series charts) talk about trends being a set of five points all going the same way. http://www.qihub.scot.nhs.uk/media/529936/run%20chart%20rule...
For what it’s worth, control chart sensitivity rules are selected based on economic considerations. So the decision to use five points is influenced by both statics and how affordable it is to investigate why the control chart alerted. Sensitivity rules can be adjusted, applied, or ignored based on the specific situation and the analysts tolerance for false positives/negatives.
While I generally agree, I'm being more generic.
A single data point doesn't establish any direction or trend at all.
With two data points you can establish a trend and make a prediction about the next data point. However, any two data points form a line, so any two results can be used to make a trend, however wrong it may be.
Only when more points are used can you confirm the trend and reduce the probability of being (un)lucky.
Two in a row is a coincidence, three in a row might be a rule
If the worry is about the manufacturer rather than the design, then we have more than two data points. The Soyuz-2 launch vehicle, which is replacing Soyuz-FG, has about a 10% failure rate (including an ISS resupply mission in 2015). This was as far as I know the second-to-last -FG flight planned, as manufacturing has been discontinued and the -2 is the main production line now.
This reminds me of the fact that if you give most people the output of a true random number generator, they'll think it's rigged because there appears to be more clustering than is intuitive.
I recommend making a playlist and making a self-blind study which feels more random: your native music player shuffling it or a true random shuffling of the list.
You'll be surprised.
That's because most people don't really want a "random" playlist. They want a random shuffle: A set of songs played in random order with no repeats until all have been played. That's not the same as making independent random picks from a list, but that's what most people want when they "randomize" their playlist.
I was more thinking about taking a list and shuffling it instead of picking songs at random.
In both cases, people complain because, for example, the same artist might be picked twice in a row. Most shuffle functions aren't random but try to make distance between similar songs.
"Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action." Maybe it's a coincidence, maybe it's not. I think it's very reasonable to want alternatives in any case.
Russia at this point is largely deindustrialized and rapidly losing its tech know-how. The recent string of failures in space programme is only one (but certainly high profile) manifestation of it.
Even with three failures I would not consider it a trend unless they are related in nature. For the current trend of "basically no failures" to go to "some failures" you'd need a couple dozen failures at minimum.
The alternative is to fix whatever broke Soyuz.
They might have been swapping out parts for cheaper ones: https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/01/russia-recalling-doz...
This needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Bashing Russian space program is one of the Ars' favorite pastimes.
Just look at their front page now -
A Soyuz crew makes an emergency landing after rocket fails.
*** It is not clear how long the Soyuz vehicle will be grounded. ***
Suppose you'll have to say the same about the Russian space official who said as much to the AP.
>11:02Z: BREAKING: Senior official says Russia suspending manned space launches pending investigation into rocket failure.
I don't think that's particularly much news. I would expect any space agency to ground every single part of a rocket until they are 100% ruled out as source of a failure.
It would've been the same if it were Roscosmos' only comment on the accident.
> A Soyuz crew makes an emergency landing after rocket fails.
> It is not clear how long the Soyuz vehicle will be grounded.
How is that "bashing"? The article reports the crew escaped without harm, a fact that was quickly established: https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/10/a-soyuz-crew-makes-a...
That Soyuz rockets have been grounded pending investigation is also a fact, and a natural course of action for any responsible space agency. Other rockets have also been grounded after accidents. The implications for the ISS crew if future Soyuz flights do not resume on schedule are a question that many are asking, so it's hardly unusual to address it.
Given that everyone knew the astronauts were safe and nobody died, the idea that people shouldn't discuss the causes and consequences of an incident when it's still fresh in people's minds makes even less sense than usual.
The article went up in less than an hour after the accident. At that time it was only known that the crew landed and not much else. They updated the story later on with details on the crew condition, but the title you see is the original one.
The article was published 1 hour 46 minutes after the failed launch, not "less than an hour", and as reported the crew's survival was confirmed 20 minutes after the incident:
> After about 20 minutes of uncertainty, Russian officials confirmed the crew were OK, and had landed about 20km east of Dzhezkazgan, a city in central Kazakhstan. As rescue crews arrived, Hague and Ovchinin were reported in "good condition" and found out of the capsule.
This information was included in the first draft of the article: https://web.archive.org/web/20181011104529/https://arstechni...
The launch took place at 8:40 UTC. The article's timestamp indicates it was published at 10:26 UTC (3:26 AM PDT). That lines up with the cached copy above from 10:45 UTC, and a snapshot of Ars Technica's homepage at 10:05 UTC in which the Soyuz story had not yet appeared (with the next snapshot at 11:02 UTC showing the article, as expected): https://web.archive.org/web/20181011100529/https://arstechni...
The fact that the headline says the crew made an "emergency landing" and not a "crash" should have been a tip-off.
I may have heard wrong, but wasn't the purpose of the two astronauts to (among other things) investigate the hole?
I saw some articles that were blaming someone on the station for making the hole. Basically blaming an American in an attempted sabotage.
I don't know if it was just sensationalist headlines or an official government stance.
While that sounds wild, there is really an article in an Russian newspaper that tells, that allegedly Roskosmos was investigating whether an American astronaut could drill the hole to return home his ill collegue sooner.
Here is that article, machine translated: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=ru&tl=en&js=y&prev...
Why would anyone want to sabotage a spaceship they are relying on for their life?
US's and Russian's modules are separate, their life systems are separate. So an emergency in one module will not impact the other.
I highly doubt it happened because for sure they have camera surveillance, it's just frustratingly dumb to accuse the others in your own shortcomings.
> Commercial Crew can't get here soon enough.
You mean the option with 0% success rate so far is better than the one with 100% (till this incident)?
You're playing some weird games with numbers here. "100% if we subtract the failures" isn't 100%, and something that hasn't been tested yet doesn't really have a 0% success rate, it just doesn't have a success rate at all.
I'm not saying that Commercial Crew is "better" than the Soyuz program, but I am definitely saying that after two high profile incidents within a few weeks, I am concerned about the long term viability of relying on it for human access to space.
Its not unusual to remove the top and bottom outliers
Not a good habit in rocketry.
We continued to fly the shuttle even after it killed 14 astronauts. By measure of total astronauts killed, it was the worst spacecraft design in history. Though not sure how it ranks in deaths per flight.
A good argument to not ignoring that outlier.
Even in rocketry, you just need to keep even more distance to the top and bottom of any ratings on any part than in normal engineering and put in a few redundancies in case it does fail.
> You mean the option with 0% success rate so far is better than the one with 100% (till this incident)?
If you're gonna play that sort of silly numbers game, Commercial Crew has a 0% failure rate to Soyuz's non-zero rate.
Null is not zero, the comparison is meaningless.
Null is essentially a coin toss while zero is guaranteed failure. Both are questionable options compared to 100% success rate over years.
The comparison isn't meaningless at all.
We've already done ground testing, launch abort tests, etc on the commercial crew vehicles plus a reference class of space vehicle first launches. So there's no cause to fall back on the Laplacian prior.
"I haven't played the lottery yet, so it's a coin toss whether I win."
First the mysterious hole and now this. Quality control at Energia is looking really questionable. Commercial Crew can't get here soon enough.
SLS will likely never service the ISS if it flies- it is designed for deep space missions and constructing the Deep Space Gateway station in cislunar orbit. Orion also is not ready for use, and even if it was it has only been flown on the Delta IV which is not human-rated.
One other option is the Boeing CST-100, however after its engine test failure this last summer it likely won't fly this year either. But like Dragon it is thought to be almost ready.
Perhaps this means the priority of SpaceX manned flights will be pushed up. We could end up seeing this much sooner.
They already said they won't rush anything because that's just as dangerous as using the Soyuz again before figuring out the reason for the failure. That said this does open up a visiting vehicle slot that Dragon could use for their unmanned test flight. That'd only push it up about a month though compared to their current estimate and would require SpaceX to be ready to launch earlier than planned.
Does this mean we're out of options to get humans to the ISS?
SLS is nowhere near, Dragon is coming next year. Soyuz has been extremely reliable but with two incidents they'll surely ground flights for a while.
Is there any other option?
Timestamp of booster failure / eject seems to be 3:06:36.
Between 3:06 and 3:07 they're reporting first stage separation was good and the rocket is performing well.
3:07:15: The male Russian voice says "Booster failure, right? Two minutes, forty-five seconds."
Other sources are saying the problem happened at booster separation. Maybe that was the initial cause and the actual failure developed some seconds later?
Not sure how to reconcile that with this audio.
The telemetry will tell. Rockets send back heaps of data from dozens, if not hundreds of sensors. All that is stored precisely so there's no guesswork based on a ground camera and the real-time audio needed.
Ah! Thank you.
No, that's first stage separation.
Thanks! If you want to watch the entire take-off itself as well it starts @ 3:03:20
Good that they cut the steam I don’t understand the criticism of them doing so if this had turned to be a disaster I don’t think the family of the astronauts would want the whole world seeing the disaster as it happens live.
Reading comprehension is a lost art i see in no where was it stated that cutting a the stream was done because of the families and friends especially solely but you need to be especially thick to reason that this isn't a consideration not to mention a benefit.
In an emergency situation it's pretty common to shut down all non official communications and direct everything through the contingency execution channels as well as to clear all non essential personnel from the room and stop all non essential activities this includes activities such as streaming and posting on instagram to the dismay of millennials everywhere.
It takes a special kind of person to think that the only reason people cut the stream during emergency is because they are trying to cover their asses, these people have dedicated their life to a job that isn't glamorous, doesn't pay well even in the US yet alone russia so yes they care about their colleagues and the people who they send up to space it's not that big of a club.
And it's in no way presumptuous to think that families and friends of those who were in the capsule might not want the world to see the events as they unfold in real time in case the worst happens. I don't think you'll find many people that would say yes I would like the screams of my loved one to be broadcast live as the spacecraft they are in crashes into a mist of fire and debris on the ground.
So yes congrats for managing to create a troll account for a single purpose of telling me exactly how wrong i was.
I agree that cutting the stream was the best thing to do in this situation. But if you want to troll people about lacking reading comprehension, try fixing your grammar and punctuation first?
You may want to reread OPs comment - it mentions nothing of withholding information from the family, nor what they themselves want to hear.
it's a single comment account created to manufacture outrage there is no reason to think they are even here anymore nor that they would care to actually read my post.
This occured minutes ago.
This live stream coverage shows the failure in the end
NASA live stream last minutes have audio track (in russian and translated to english) following the failure.
Both streams were abruptly halted, but links work for now.
I agree, credit to Russia for having one of only two man rated rockets in the world. But Russia’s increasing failure rates have been an industry topic for a few years now though - it’s a valid concern.
Here’s an article from two and a half years ago, “What’s the matter with Russia’s rockets?” after a string of similar failures with unmanned rockets. http://www.planetary.org/blogs/jason-davis/2016/20161201-wha...
The Russians had too many issues with their launchers in the past years, so this seems to be part of a trend, and not an isolated case.
As you said, this is rocket science. High corruption level and incompetent officials can be very destructive in domains like space exploration.
Eh, launch failures are probably approximately Poisson distributed. It's not unlikely for them to appear in clumps.
Unfortunately that's not a great argument for moving more of the work to the US :-)
The US doesn't suffer from a very high level of corruption. So yes, it's a reasonable argument for moving more of the work to the US.
Transparency International ranks the US with Belgium and just behind Australia and Iceland on corruption.
Russia is #135, below Ukraine and Myanmar.
Maybe a case of "the corruption you might stand a chance to expose, vs. the corruption you don't"?
Might be a little hostile but none of it is inaccurate. American space experts have bemoaned the fact that we have had to rely on Russia to send people to Space since retiring the Shuttle, and have discussed its impact on national security, the economy, and just our plain old scientific knowledge.
Thanks. After reading up on it more, I agree. But Since BBC did not offer any follow up links, context, quotes or other sources for their claims, it sounded like unfounded accusations (to my uninformed ears)
I agree, the writing seems quite hostile. Everything get politicized immediately nowadays which is quite sad.
Sir, there was nothing political about the quoted paragraph assuming that it is accurate that the industry have been discussing russian space reliability. In fact it would be you who has politicized it now.
I'm not following news about space, and was just going from what I read. he article did not provide any context or sources for these claims. Now that HN has filled in thw gaps, it does sound like Russia might have a problem with their tech. But imo BBC should have quoted either other articles or experts on the matter when making statements like this
Ma’am, something being accurate doesn’t preclude it being political.
Interesting comment considering you've submitted several articles that were quite negative about Elon Musk.
And that is not necessarily politicizing, at least not in a narrow sense.
Yes, Elon, not SpaceX.
I'm not sure how I feel about that argument, did we really just find a place where public attacks on a person are better? I would think at most people actually involved in something that relies on the person may have a valid argument for such a thing, if it sticks to a concrete subject they actually have reason to care about. Other than that, I don't see the general public getting involved in discussions of a person (as such, in general) as a good thing.
If I am trying to determine if I should buy or sell TSLA because the CEO just called another man a "Pedo" or claiming "funds secured" I think discussing what this man has said is justified.
This is what cold war looks like and it has not begun several years ago. Cold war just has not ended yet.
Seems reminiscent to media sentiment left after the Cold-War era. 
But I'm not knowledgeable in this area. I'm glad the safety worked as intended. I think space travel is necessary but expensive.
Everyone is not a rocket scientist nor an avid reader of space industry magazines and thus it kind of makes sense to gove the reader a bit of insigh in the general direction of the industry.
Just too many problems with the Russian space program recently. It is systematic problem and not an exception.
BBC article, UK is not exactly best friend with Russia. (cf. Skripal stuff)
“Great Britain has no friends, only interests."
Does Russia has any friend?
Yes, oil and gas, err, I meant fleet and army.
> There is already much discussion about the current state of Russian industry and its ability to maintain the standards of yesteryear. Whatever the outcome of the inquiry, this event will only heighten those concerns and will underline to the US in particular the need to bring online new rocket systems. These vehicles, produced by the Boeing and SpaceX companies, are set to make their debut next year.
Is it just me, or is this unnecessarily hostile writing? This is literally rocket science, and the escape mechanisms seem to have worked perfectly. And at least the Russians do have (had) a working way to get stuff to iss, so I don't think these (uncited!) accusations are called for
I think the escape towers have always been considered as workable. The Space Shuttle had a few emergency modes that were considered as very questionable. For example there was one where they would turn the Shuttle around and fly back to the launch site which was considered as very difficult to say the least.
The commander of the first Shuttle flight said, “RTLS requires continuous miracles interspersed with acts of God to be successful.”
That's one of the best quotes ever.
I believe this is the abort scenario that you are referencing.
Yes. RTLS return to launch site.
It also had significant periods of the ascent where there simply no abort mode possible.
Crew are in good shape (sitting up and having their photos taken).
Wasn't this Soyuz escape mechanism already triggered in 1975 ?
I think it was in 1983 but not the same mechanism, it was the Launch Escape System, this time (as far as I've read in the news) it was a failure of a stage that put the capsule in a ballistic trajectory instead of in orbit.
The LES is the only way the capsule can separate from a malfunctioning booster. That activation happened to be on the ground, so the ballistic trajectory was rather short and dominated by the velocity the LES itself imparted; but activate it for an in-flight failure like this one and you will be off on a more substantial suborbital trajectory.
This is false. LES tower jettison was prior to the failure today.
I'm not sure about that - the NASA commentator says the LES tower was jettisoned pretty much at the time the booster appears to have failed. From her later comment, she doesn't seem to have seen that a failure happened until some time afterwards, even though the Russian's are clearly saying a failure happened, so I think she's reading from a script of what should be happening at that moment. So I would not treat her saying the LES tower jettison occurred as being certain.
I agree with your interpretation of the tape audio, but the 'ballistic trajectory' statements from Roscosmos/NASA tell us that it was not rocket-powered. Indications are that the anomaly happened at booster sep, which is a few seconds after LES jettison.
That page says LES can be jettisoned on either side of separation depending on flight profile.
The tower is not the only component of the Soyuz LES - after the extra thrust is needed, the tower is jettisoned and the LES relies on the engines in a "shroud" around the capsules.
See the first segment in this video for an explanation of the system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMUJ004Dr8Q
It sounds like you are right.
To add to the other poster, while the LES was jettisoned, in this case it seems that the booster failed to ignite, which allowed normal staging separation.
That's not right. The stage sep was the Soyuz strap-on boosters separating from the sustainer stage. It was already ignited.
Just the tower, not the whole LES. See this video for an illustration of this rather exotic system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMUJ004Dr8Q
There is no ignition on Soyuz, because they couldn't find a reliable way to ignite the engine when it was designed so second stage works from the start, it is the central part of the rocket, and 4 boosters around it.
Second stage was shut down because of the problems with a booster separation.
The other way (which is what happened here) is simply detaching from the booster using the normal mechanism.
I seriously doubt they would lie to the crew about the efficacy of the escape system. And if they knew it didn't actually work they may as well save the weight and not have one at all...
I didn't write that the crew was lied to. The situation could be that it could have a 50% survival rate. That is, worth including the design but not a panacea.
It's amazing that the escape mechanisms worked, though we have yet to see the crew's conditions. I thought these mechanisms were only put in place to put people at ease but were never actually going to work (kind of like how the seats in commercial jets serve as flotation devices but how likely are they to be used in most flights).
My understanding is that "ballistic" means without any form of propulsion (except the initial one sending it on its way). In other words, like a projectile (or a ball), just subject to the forces of gravity and air resistance.
In other words: falling, yup.
(But note that one could "fall" upwards or sideways initially - not like Arthur Dent , but like a bullet (or indeed rocket) fired upwards).
 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy states: "There is an art to flying, or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. ... Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, that presents the difficulties."
I believe the Soyuz SAS has engine thrusters for the landing sequence. So ballistic may mean the thrusters were not operable and they may have landed a bit harder than normal (normal for an abort sequence at least). Meaning they were still under canopy, just falling at a higher impact velocity than intended. So maybe rather than a gentle landing at 5m/s it was more like a car crash at 20 m/s. Beats blowing up with the rocket or hitting the ground at terminal velocity, though, and presumably the reports of "good condition" mean there are at most some concussions and broken bones.
Wikipedia has some pertinent (and interesting) details:
> The Descent Module (Russian: Спуска́емый Аппара́т, tr. Spuskáyemy Apparát), also known as a reentry capsule, is used for launch and the journey back to Earth. Half of the Descent Module is covered by a heat-resistant covering to protect it during reentry; this half faces the Earth during re-entry. It is slowed initially by the atmosphere, then by a braking parachute, followed by the main parachute which slows the craft for landing. At one meter above the ground, solid-fuel braking engines mounted behind the heat shield are fired to give a soft landing. One of the design requirements for the Descent Module was for it to have the highest possible volumetric efficiency (internal volume divided by hull area). The best shape for this is a sphere — as the pioneering Vostok spacecraft's Descent Module used — but such a shape can provide no lift, which results in a purely ballistic reentry. Ballistic reentries are hard on the occupants due to high deceleration and cannot be steered beyond their initial deorbit burn. That is why it was decided to go with the "headlight" shape that the Soyuz uses—a hemispherical forward area joined by a barely angled (seven degrees) conical section to a classic spherical section heat shield. This shape allows a small amount of lift to be generated due to the unequal weight distribution.
So, maybe ballistic refers to the fact that no lift was generated? (A glider is not considered ballistic, even though it has no propulsion.)
An, and indeed, that's what Wiktionary says:
> ballistic entry: when an entry vehicle has only drag with no apparent lift. An axisymmetric entry vehicle would have no apparent lift if its angle-of-attack time averaged out to zero, e.g. sinusoid angle-of-attack centered or trimmed about zero lift.
Here's a diagram of the descent module, if you are having trouble with the description:
The standard landing experience is described in an ESA video: https://youtu.be/-l7MM9yoxII?t=1086
>there are at most some concussions and broken bones.
If you're strapped into a bucket seat with your back to the impact it's gonna take a fuckton of Gs to break bones. The astronauts would not be in "good condition" if they experienced that kind of a landing. They would be calling it a crash at that point.
An interview on BBC Newshour said that a normal Soyuz landing could go as high as 6 G's, and max acceleration this time was 6.7 G's. So certainly on the rough side (6 G's is bad enough!) but not that far out of normal. Even a shock of 9 G's is expected to be survivable, although that would take a lot more recovery.
Ballistic in the Soyuz context means not using any aerodynamic lift, as oppposed to gliding reentry which is using lift, is controllable, and imposes much less Gs on the crew. Neither one uses any propulsion (expect for a specialized RCS which is used to control the roll while gliding).
It's not entirely clear to me why there's less acceleration on the gliding entry. It can't really be that the speed is bled off over a longer distance, right (in other words, I assume that the high-g phases are rather punctual than extended), and intuitively it would seem that, coming in at high speed, "gliding" (ie with lift) would lead to quicker deceleration than just "bleeding off" speed in the ballistic fall, ie higher g. Could you elaborate on the difference between the usual and ballistic mode, and when the high g-load occurs?
Fallen in a parabolic arc. They did have considerable horizontal velocity already at that point. The usual Soyuz descent involves a more shallow angle, with some aerodynamic lift generated by the capsule’s flat bottom, as well as (very) limited controllability using eight hydrazine thrusters around the capsule. But the great thing about the Soyuz is that even without control it can land safely if somewhat uncomfortably.
...From the creators of "unscheduled rapid disassembly" a.k.a. explosion on the launchpad.
Please... We can do RUDs in space too!
Space x and Boeing must have designed for failure at all points during launch, including this, does anyone have the details? It's impressive that the original design from so many years ago still works! There may be quality and manufacturing problems but I salute the designers, the engineers!
> designed for failure at all points during launch
If you want to investigate this, the term to look for is "black zone".
I would interpret it as "fallen horizontally" with a lot of braking happening lately in the atmosphere.
Yep. 8g's apparently.
The part when they are falling is only at an acceleration of 1g (that's what falling is). If they experienced 8g acceleration, it was before the ballistic part of the descent.
Atmospheric reentry is more than 1g
The reentry forces could definitely exceed 1g and usually do from orbital velocity. You're moving sideways however fast the rocket left you going, and you have fallen at 1g acceleration for some amount of time before hitting thicker parts of the atmosphere. Your velocity is now way higher than terminal velocity for that altitude and you experience acceleration (deceleration).
Whey you are falling in a vacuum, it's not 1g, but 0g. That's what they experience on orbit. When you are falling with atmosphere resistance, it can be anything. Consider yourself jumping into water. You feel weightless when you are falling, but what do you feel when you hit the water? That's what happens when you hit atmosphere at 8km/sec.
The difference is between acceleration and g-force. Falling towards earth in a vacuum (or orbiting earth in a vacuum) you are experiencing 1g of acceleration but zero-g of g-force because you and your spaceship are accelerating together and you aren't meeting any mechanical resistance to the acceleration.
Once you start hitting atmo the velocity you've built up from your 1g of freefall meeting the resistance of the atmosphere creates g-forces.
8g was probably from the parachutes deploying, although you do experience very slightly more than 1g acceleration while in freefall, as you encounter increasing air resistance (and significantly more in reentry).
I suspect the high G period is mostly when the escape rocket fires.
edit: Never mind. Chris Hadfield says it's hitting the atmosphere. https://twitter.com/Cmdr_Hadfield/status/1050385343625740289
The high g period was then they ran into the thicker part of the atmosphere at faster than terminal velocity (so the deceleration caused by the air is what led to the g forces).
Although that didn't happen this time - the escape rocket had already been jettisoned before the failure occurred.
Not vertically (they'll have had some horizontal momentum), but falling like a stone yeah. On the Soyuz it's a designed-in failsafe mode though.
Much in the same way a disaster is often called an "off-nominal aviation event".
>>> The crew had to return in "ballistic descent mode", Nasa tweeted, which it explained was "a sharper angle of landing compared to normal".
is it me or is it a very diplomatic qay to sell : "fallen vertically" ?
NASA Twitter feed has near real time updates on the developing situation:
NASA TV reports that the capsule is down and the S&R team is in contact with the astronauts, who are in "good condition".
Phew, thankfully a good ending.
It's still going down according to @NASA@twitter.com about 4 minutes as of this time, like in Kazakhstan, the crew is well.
It says escape, as in past tense, in the title, but is there confirmation of this? The article body seems to suggest they are still in the air?
I was just reading Phillip P. Peterson's Paradox - On the Brink of Eternity, which starts (mini spoiler alert) with an adventure with a Soyuz module, so when I read this news for a moment I though I was still dreaming after having fell asleep on the book.
It's supposed to fall like a rock. The difference is the angle, not the fundamental method.
The crucial difference is that (IIRC) in ballistic descent you don't angle the craft to gain altitude and prolong reentry.
Normally you'd slightly angle the craft downwards or upwards to alter the trajectory in the air, during reentry this allows you to stay longer at high altitudes and burn off more speed before you burn it at lower altitudes (literally).
The shape of the craft not being a wing is largely irrelevant, with sufficient speed even a brick can fly.
Yes, ballistic here apparently means without propulsion, and without generating lift (only drag).
Means like a ball in the sense of 'cannonball'
I wonder how badly a descent like that would beat you up. Seems pretty violent but it's certainly better than dead.
It's supposed to fall that way in that scenario. The Soyuz capsule is capable of generating lift during re-entry, which it usually does for a nominal orbital entry, but that's not always desired in every situation.
A rock with parachutes, FWIW.
Parachutes deploy when descent is almost over, not when you experience 8g.
Ballistic descent mode is an interesting euphemism for falling like a rock.
The US really needs to invest more in our own infrastructure and astronaut delivery system.
Escape on BFR will likely be similar to escape with Falcon 9/Crew Dragon: that is, BFS itself has more than enough thrust to very quickly distance itself from a failing BFB, and it would probably be able to land itself on a nearby but safely distant emergency landing pad.
Now an argument can be made that BFS needs an escape pod or two, but those would mostly be useful in circumstances other than failure during launch.
(For those unfamiliar, BFB = Big Falcon Booster, BFS = Big Falcon Ship. BFR is both working in unison)
The escape system used here and on a previous Soyuz abort in 1975 didn't use the LES, it used the Soyuz spacecraft's own engines, a very similar abort mode to what the BFR would use.
The rocket doesn't need one. The spaceship does. But considering that the whole thing gets redesigned every two months I wouldn't worry too much. It's still years from flying, so plenty of time to change stuff.
It's worrying that there isn't an escape system on SpaceX BFR.
The system with worst or no abort procedures is the Space Shuttle. Earlier versions had ejection seats, but they got rid of that. Imagine if they had Soyuz like capsule which can popped off. Both Challenger and Discovery crew would have been ok. No wonder they discontinued that program.
That's a great video. Around the 14 minute and 40 second point they discuss briefly ballistic return but they don't really put any details. A few minutes before that they do talk about the return. That's actually the best video I've ever seen about the specifics of returning from space. Thank you so much.
Long ago I watched this video that describes Soyuz reentry. I thought it was cool at the time, and I think it really gives context to the occasion. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-l7MM9yoxII
It means that the angle of descent of the capsule was much greater, so they encountered thicker atmosphere quicker than ideal, causing greater decelleration forces on the capsule than they would normally experience.
A Soyuz only fires thrusters twice during descent. Once to go from orbit to re-entry and once immediately before impact to provide a gentler landing. During descent it normally generates a bit of lift from positioning a weight inside the crew capsule which makes the CoM off center which makes the descent not-quite-ballistic. I imagine the phrase refers to that not happening here.
Does "ballistic descent mode" mean that the braking thrusters were inoperable, or just that the launch escape system was not in use?
A little more footage from moments before the failure of the booster which happens sometime between 3m39 and 4m39s in the video, listen to the Russian comms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0l5QBmqQoI&t=3m38s
I've seen multiple reports that the crew's first indication of a problem was that they felt weightless and that objects in the cabin were floating. Maybe there was also an instrumentation-based warning for the crew or ground, but it's odd that nobody is mentioning it.
The hole in [the orbital module of] the docked Soyuz is on the part that is jettisoned before re-entry.
"The orbital module is a spherical portion of the Soyuz that allows more gear to go up with the spacecraft. Unlike the lower crew capsule, the orbital module does not survive re-entry into Earth's atmosphere."
With the holed one docked to the ISS that no one is keen to de-orbit with and this flight having one crew less they are getting into some situation now.
I guess they could send Soyuz MS-11 without crew so the current ISS crew has a more reliable craft for their own return.
The footage inside: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/inside-soyuz-capsule_...
Those might be the boosters separating. And probably a small explosion, or just the gases from the separation.
Edit: the boosters separated, and due to failure it might activated the escape capsule.
This footage appears to show the the Launch Escape System striking the booster as it separates:
"The malfunction became apparent about 90 seconds into the flight" Shows 90 second video I am annoyed..
everyone that thinks spacex will transport people soon is naive / drunk on hype. they are at least 5 years away from flying humans in space. depends on how many test flights they can do. you just can’t rush this. it is one domain where “move fast break things” is a bad idea.
Why is this a bad thing? A working abort system is a very good thing. Rockets fail.
"ballistic descent mode" == "falling".
Hmmm...I am really confused...why it has been downvoted?
Add an emergency escape system.
SpaceX's crewed Dragon is the escape system. It's built into the capsule, and has been successfully tested. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_FXVjf46T8
The BFR, to my knowledge, lacks one. Not sure if Musk has commented on that; I'd imagine his likely argument is that airliners don't either.
Hmm...it's the 2nd emergency situation with Russian Soyuz happened within ±1 month. is there anything SpaceX can do to safely deliver austonauts in ISS?
Why are we doing this with Russia?
Didn't even make any news sources that I've seen. 8-(
Everytime an article mentions ISS my brain immediately parses ISIS...
Hey, so... Orthodox priests bless literally everything. It's so common for them to bless things like rifles, tanks, parachutes, liquor, et cetera, that it's kind of an in-joke in Orthodox cultures and regions. But you go look online and you'll see them blessing I mean literally everything.
Orthodox Priests Blessing Things https://twitter.com/blagoslovie
It's not just orthodox church either.....in Poland it's extremely common for Roman Catholic priests to be invited to military and government events to bless things too.
this just makes me think of scene from life of brian :') blessed be the cheesemakers
Or maybe the blessing is why they survived ;)
Lol, the Almighty showed up for an unannounced test of their blessing-fu :)
Jesus is watching, folks. Look busy!
What the other person said...imagine what would have happened if they hadn't blessed it at all? :)
and if that isn't enough, here's the catch all phrase: god works in mysterious ways.
They probably forgot to pee at their bus tire before launch https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/why-russian-astronauts...
well the capsule itself worked fine!
They might take the credit for the safe return of the crew despite the calamity.
The capsule didn't crash - it landed safely.
TIL: every start is blessed by Orthodox Priest (what? :) ). They claim that only the capsules they didn't bless might crash. The very this capsule was blessed . So the Russian Church might have a hard time to explain how the crash happened :)
I did not even realize this was possible.
Good to know astronauts are alive, I just hope spacex gets to launch manned missions sooner, roskosmos is abysmal nowdays
I'm gonna need a new spacesuit
Looks like diversion from competitors.
Some Gell-Mann amnesia urgently required. A local paper headlines that "*a rocket with two astronauts has made emergency landing".
Same media house which some years ago told me that the Voyager spacecraft was provided with "a radioactive fuel ensuring continual thrust".