Just yesterday the Russian space agency Roscosmos revealed that it has completed its investigation into the failure of its Soyuz rocket on a recent launch that was supposed to send two crew members to the International Space Station. Roscosmos officials explained that a malfunctioning sensor led to an issue with the separation between the two rocket stages, causing one piece of the rocket to fail to separate fully, sending the rocket into a spin and prompting the instant abort.
Now, as it prepares to make the full report public, the Russian space group has published a video showing exactly how it all played out.
The video, which was posted various places including the official Roscosmos Twitter account, shows the rocket launch from the very start all the way to its eventual abort. Check it out:
— РОСКОСМОС (@roscosmos) November 1, 2018
As you can see, the launch appears to go quite smoothly up until the point where the two stages are supposed to separate. When the planned separation occurs, two of the three visible portions of the previous stage fall off and away from the spacecraft as they should, but the one on the left side of the video hangs on for an extra moment, tumbling towards the rocket rather than away from it.
This was ultimately what doomed the mission, as the piece slammed into the side of the second stage booster fuel tank. This damage caused the rocket’s built-in safety features to initiate an immediate abort before anyone even had a chance to think about it, and the two passengers soon found themselves flying back towards Earth in the crew capsule. Both men were fine.
There’s a couple of takeaways here. Firstly, the video is great supporting evidence for the version of events that Russia offers in its report, and it’s clear from the clip exactly what went wrong. Secondly, it’s great to see that the Soyuz rocket’s safety abort system works so well, and it should be a great comfort to space travelers who will soon be riding the hardware to space once more.