Friday, October 12, 2018

Thursdays Soyuz MS-10 Rocket Failure Could End Up Assisting US Commercial Crew Development

          By Henry Stewart

Both astronauts are safe after a Russian Soyuz MS-10 rocket failed less than two minutes after launching an American and a Russian on their scheduled Expedition 57-58 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday morning.

It was the first failure of a manned Soyuz booster at high altitude since April 1975, when Soyuz 7K-T No.39 also failed to achieve orbit.

As outlined in the October 11th, 2018 Associated Press post, "2 astronauts safe after Soyuz forced to make emergency landing," NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin were both subjected "to heavy gravitational forces as their capsule automatically jettisoned from the Soyuz booster rocket and fell back to Earth at a sharper-than-normal angle and landed about 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of the city of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan."

This latest failure is probably not going to help the Russian space industry.

But it might end up helping Hawthorne CA based SpaceX and Houston TX based Boeing. Both companies are building privately operated crew vehicles under the US Commercial Crew Development program designed to replace Russian rockets and Soyuz capsules with US boosters and spacecraft for low Earth orbit and ISS resupply missions.

At press time, it is not known what impact the Soyuz MS-10 failure and subsequent investigation will have on the ISS crew schedule. According to the October 11th, 2018 Canadian Space Agency (CSA) press release, "Canadian Space Agency Statement on Soyuz Launch Abort," the CSA is monitoring the situation:
A thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted by Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. It is not known whether this will affect Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques' launch date of December 20, 2018.
According to the press release, both astronauts are en route to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, outside Moscow for debriefing and medical examinations.

As outlined in the October 11th, 2018 Reuters post, "Astronauts Taking Off for International Space Station Make Emergency Landing," Russia immediately suspended all manned space launches.

Dmitry Rogozin, the chief of the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities (Roscosmos) also ordered a state commission to be set up to "investigate what had gone wrong."

Image c/o @JimBridenstine.
As outlined in the Reuters post:
The failure is a setback for the Russian space programme and the latest in a string of mishaps.  
In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule already docked to the ISS which caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched. Rogozin has said it could have been "sabotage".

For now, the United States relies on Moscow to carry its astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) which was launched 20 years ago. NASA tentatively plans to send its first crew to the ISS using a SpaceX craft instead of a Soyuz next April. 
Washington and NASA echoed those thoughts.

NASA’s Administrator Jim Bridenstine remarked on his twitter feed that “NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin are in good condition following today’s aborted launch. I’m grateful that everyone is safe. A thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted

According to the October 11th, 2018 The Verge post, "Today’s failed Soyuz launch complicates the future of the International Space Station," the Russian Soyuz spacecraft "is currently the only vehicle that can take humans to and from the ISS, and the rocket is now grounded from human spaceflight for the foreseeable future. That means NASA may not be able to send astronauts to the station for a while, which could eventually leave the ISS without a crew."

According to the post, "NASA has been working for years on new ways to get its astronauts to the ISS," but neither the SpaceX manned Dragon spacecraft / Falcon 9 configuration nor the Boeing CST-100 spacecraft/Atlas V system is currently flight ready. Both programs are expected to take their first manned flights sometime next year.

When it comes to rockets, the New York NY based Space Angels are fiscal experts for the growing private sector. As outlined in the preamble to the Q3 2018 Space Investment Quarterly Report, "in our last issue, we saw growing evidence that 2018 would be the Year of Small Launch and indeed that trend has continued in Q3 2018, with investment in Launch now exceeding $1Bln US ($1.3Bln CDN) year-to-date." The Space Angels also noted an increase in Series B rounds for satellite start-ups and China’s rapid growth in private investment for the space industry. Graphic c/o Space Angels

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques is currently at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan where he served as back astronaut for the current mission and continues to train for his now postponed Expedition 58-59 mission.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer. 

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