‘That was a quick flight’: How astronauts kept ice cool as their rocket malfunctioned at 4,970mph on the edge of space and plummeted back to Earth in harrowing 7G ‘ballistic re-entry’

Thursday, October 11, 2018
By Paul Martin

The secondary booster rockets on the Russian-made Soyuz spacecraft failed just after it launched Thursday
American Nick Hague and Russian Aleksey Ovchinin were forced to carry out a ‘ballistic re-entry’ to get back
The two-strong crew landed safely at a site in Kazakhstan hundreds of miles away from the initial launch site
Video footage from the launch shows the pair being shaken around as the engine malfunctioned in mid-flight
After the incident Russia announced Soyuz flights to the International Space Station would be suspended

11 October 2018

Two astronauts kept ice cool as their rocket, travelling at thousands of miles an hour, malfunctioned on the edge of space while carrying them to the International Space Station – cockpit audio reveals.

Russian Aleksey Ovchinin and American Nick Hague made it back to Earth alive this morning after the booster on their Soyuz rocket malfunctioned at 164,000 feet and the rocket automatically turned back during a dramatic 7G ‘ballistic re-entry’.

Ovchinin retained an enviable sang-froid as he realised what was happening after they were rocked violently around in their seats by the force of the booster malfunction.

‘An accident with the booster, 2 minutes, 45 seconds. That was a quick flight,’ he said in a calm voice in a streamed video of the incident.

‘We’re tightening our seatbelts,’ Ovchinin said on the video.

At that moment the two astronauts were experiencing weightlessness, when in an ordinary launch they should still have been pinned to the back of their seats by the force of the rocket surging upwards at 4,970mph.

Russia says it has opened a criminal investigation and grounded all Soyuz flights. The accident comes weeks after a hole was discovered in the International Space Station amid talk from the Russian space authorities of deliberate sabotage.

Video footage from the launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome shows a large plume of smoke coming from the rocket at the moment it failed and footage from inside the capsule shows the two astronauts being violently shaken about.

The accident bears similarities to the 1986 Challenger disaster when one of its boosters failed at lift-off causing an explosion that killed seven.

A crew has been forced to eject from a Soyuz rocket once before in 1983 – when two cosmonauts ditched their rocket while it was still on the launch pad, seconds before it exploded.

The rocket, which was designed in the 1960s, has also had one booster fail in similar fashion to today’s malfunction. In 2002 a booster rocket malfunctioned and the rocket which was carrying a satellite crashed in Kazakhstan killing one person on the ground.

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