See the moment that Russian rocket failed with NASA astronaut aboard

Roscosmos says a bent sensor caused the failure and Russia's Soyuz rockets are ready to return to space within weeks.

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Eric Mack
2 min read

Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, has released footage from a camera on board the Soyuz rocket that failed last month, forcing a dramatic emergency landing of the two astronauts on board.

The Oct.11 launch was meant to carry NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin to the International Space Station, but a short time after blast-off an "anomaly" occurred as the first-stage boosters separated. 

Watch this: Watch the moment that Russian rocket failed midflight

The new video shows a view of the lower, or "strap-on," booster blocks from launch until just after the moment three of the four large blocks can be seen falling away. As we now know, the fourth strap-on block didn't separate properly and actually smacked its top against the central core rocket stage of the Soyuz.

"It resulted in its decompression (of the core's fuel tank) and, as a consequence, the space rocket lost its attitude control," Roscosmos said in a statement released Thursday. 

Watch this: Rocket failure leads to emergency landing

The automatic systems on board the rocket detected the problem and triggered the escape system, which detaches the crew capsule and shoots it to the side to safely clear the rest of the rocket assembly.   

The final moments of the new video show the rocket clearly beginning to spin in a chaotic way. This would be about the same moment Hague and Ovchinin's capsule was being flung to the side of the failing rocket. 

Hague later recounted the occasionally uncomfortable long ride back to the surface, where both men were quickly rescued and found to be unscathed from the experience. 

Roscosmos now says the failure was the result of a bent separation sensor pin on the strap-on block.

"It was damaged during the assembling of the strap-on boosters with the core stage at the Baikonur Cosmodrome."

The Russian space agency says it is taking preventive measures to guard against future failures and to get Soyuz back into space. In fact, a Soyuz launch to carry cargo to the space station is scheduled for Nov. 16 and a crewed launch set for Dec. 3. 

It seems likely a NASA astronaut could be on that December flight.

"We have a number of Russian Soyuz rocket launches in the next month and a half and in December, we're fully anticipating putting our crew on a Russian Soyuz rocket to launch to the International Space Station again," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said last week.

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