Sunday 16 December 2018

Soyuz cargo launch paves way for next crew to visit space station

It follows October’s drama when two astronauts successfully escaped after their rocket failed two minutes into their flight.

Russian cargo ship Souz FG with the Progress MS-10 takes off from the launch pad at Russia’s main space facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan (Roscosmos/AP)
Russian cargo ship Souz FG with the Progress MS-10 takes off from the launch pad at Russia’s main space facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan (Roscosmos/AP)

By Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press

A Russian Soyuz rocket has sent a cargo ship on its way to the International Space Station, a successful launch clearing the way for the next crew to travel to the space outpost.

The launch of the Russian Progress MS-10 resupply ship from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan marked the fourth successful lift-off of a Soyuz since a launch with crew members had to be aborted last month.

A Soyuz-FG rocket carrying Nasa astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos’ Alexei Ovchinin failed two minutes into its flight on October 11, activating an automatic rescue system that ensured a safe landing of their capsule.

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CSA astronaut David Saint Jacques, Russian cosmonaut Оleg Kononenko‎ and US astronaut Anne McClain are the next crew who will be launched in a Soyuz (Pavel Golovkin/AP)

A Russian investigation attributed the failure to a sensor that was damaged during the rocket’s final assembly.

Since the mishap, two Soyuz rockets were launched successfully from Plesetsk in northwestern Russia, while a third lifted off from French Guiana carrying satellites into orbit.

They were of a different subtype than the rocket that failed in October, but the one that lifted off Friday was the same version.

The Progress ship is set to dock at the space station on Sunday, delivering almost three tons of food, fuel, water and other supplies to the crew, Nasa’s Serena Aunon-Chancellor, Russian Sergei Prokopyev and German Alexander Gerst.

In a separate supply mission, Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket with Cygnus cargo spacecraft is scheduled to lift off on Saturday and dock at the station on Monday.

The current crew is scheduled to return to Earth next month after the arrival of their replacements.

American astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian David Saint-Jacques and Russian Oleg Kononenko are set to go up on December 3.

Speaking on Thursday at the Star City space training centre outside Moscow, Ms McClain voiced confidence in the Soyuz despite October’s aborted launch.

“We trust our rocket. We’re ready to fly,” she said.

“I think what we learned from the inside in October was how safe this rocket was.

“A lot of people called it an accident or an incident, or maybe want to use it as an example of not being safe.

“But for us it’s exactly the opposite because our friends came home, the systems worked and they worked exactly as they were designed.”

Press Association

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