At around 7pm AEST last night, a Soyuz capsule sending astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin to the International Space Station had to perform a ballistic reentry as part of it’s abort sequence. Pulling about 6.7G’s the capsule landed back in Kazakhstan.
“When I heard the first calls from the crew, there was a huge sigh of relief.”
NASA Deputy Chief Astronaut, Reid Wiseman
What caused the stage one failure is unclear and Russia has begun an investigation, while Hague and Ovchinin have undergone and passed medical examinations, but the three person crew on board the station right now are confronted with a series of scenarios that would be in the deepest archive of the space agency, considering it’s been almost twenty years since the station was last faced with vacancies – and that was during it’s construction.
The current escape pod, a Soyuz MS-09, docked at the station on June 8th is only designed to spend 200 days in orbit. Putting the return date around December, but that could be stretched into January – at which point the spacecraft would have to return to Earth and bring the station crew home. One plan, already under way, would see the Russians launch an empty Soyuz as both a test and a new escape pod. That would give everyone an additional 200 days to work out what went wrong and return Soyuz to crewed flight, or come up with a plan B.
Both Boeing and SpaceX have been working on new technologies to return to American-based launches, but neither of those programs are ready for crewed flights… they’re only beginning uncrewed test launches early next year – where one phase will be to dock with a crewed space station. Which would be delayed were the station be evacuated.
In all the press releases and conferences, however, NASA assured media that it has some time to formulate plans and take action – they’re immediate concern is retooling EVA’s that grounded astronaut Hague was scheduled to perform.
“This is, in my opinion, a good news story.”
“The crew is already back on the ground in Baikonur, and they’ve been reunited with their families.”
Following a harrowing aborted launch sequence, the mood at NASA seems to be one of relief thankfully.