Soyuz launch failed due to assembly problem: Russia

Korolyov: Russia said on Thursday the launch of a Soyuz rocket failed last month due to a sensor that was damaged during assembly but insisted that the spacecraft remains reliable.
Russia, the only country able to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station, suspended all launches after a Soviet-designed Soyuz rocket failed on October 11 just minutes after blast-off — the first such incident in the history of post-Soviet space travel.
Oleg Skorobogatov, the head of the commission that probed the accident, said the flight was aborted because part of a sensor that indicates the separation of the stages of the rocket was damaged during assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
“The cause of a non-standard separation” was a “deformation” of a part during assembly, Skorobogatov told a news conference at Russia’s mission control outside Moscow.
He said the deformation caused a booster on the first stage to malfunction and collide with a fuel tank which “led to the loss of stabilisation” and triggered an emergency landing.
A video recorded by a Soyuz camera and published by the Russian space agency showed the rocket rapidly changing direction and spinning around after one of the four boosters failed to separate in synch with the others.
During the aborted launch, Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague made an emergency landing and escaped unharmed.
After the successful emergency landing both the Russian and US space agencies praised the Soviet-designed rocket, with Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine saying last month that US astronauts will continue using the Soyuz and praising its “resilience”.
The Soyuz “remains the most reliable rocket,” Dmitry Baranov, acting director of Energia, the manufacturer of the rocket, said on Thursday.
Skorobogatov, who heads TsNIIMash, a state research institute specialising in spacecraft and missile development, said the commission ruled out a manufacturing problem.
“The only place where it could happen was during rocket assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome,” he said.
Skorobogatov warned that two other rockets — one of which was also at Baikonur — may have problems due to assembly. — AFP