Russian Federation suspends space launches pending probe into rocket failure — NewsAlert

Prepared Alexey Ovchinin and Nick Hague walk to the launch pad

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos' Alexei Ovchinin landed in the steppes of Kazakhstan Thursday following the failure of a Russian booster rocket carrying them to the International Space Station. Russian Federation is now under pressure to prove its space programme is safe or face losing lucrative fees to carry U.S. astronauts into space.

The capsule jettisoned from the booster and went into a ballistic descent, landing at a sharper than normal angle and subjecting the crew to heavy G-forces.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists: "Thank God the cosmonauts are alive".

Roscosmos has ordered the setting up of a state commission to investigate the incident and a criminal investigation is also expected.

Hague, 43, and Ovchinin, 47, lifted off at 2:40 p.m. (0840 GMT; 4:40 a.m. EDT).

Three people are now aboard the space station: a German, a Russian and an American. Sergey Krikalev told reporters that part of the first stage of the rocket had struck the second stage after separating, damaging the booster. The crew felt a jolt and then quickly reported being weightless: They were in free fall back to Earth.

Search and rescue teams were dispatched to the landing location and collected the astronauts who made it safely back.

"The boys have landed", mission control told the astronauts, who arrived at the space station in June and were scheduled to return December 13.

Hague's wife and parents anxiously awaited word at Baikonur, accompanied the whole time by a NASA astronaut who was in the same class as Hague.

Hague is a colonel in the Air Force. Robotic cargo launches using USA -built resupply ships are also scheduled to deliver more supplies to the station in the next two months.

The astronauts were returned to Baikonur for medical checks and to see their families. As night fell in Central Asia, Hague and Ovchinin were being examined by medical officials and would soon likely return to Russian Federation to the space training facility in Star City. Ovchinin spent six months on the station in 2016.

The head of Russia's top space medicine center says that two astronauts from the USA and Russian Federation are feeling good after an emergency landing.

"Glad our friends are fine", space station commander Alexander Gerst, a European Space Agency astronaut from Germany, tweeted from orbit. "And we must keep trying for the benefit of humankind".

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There was no immediate word on whether the space station crew might need to extend its own six-month mission. Hague was supposed to be one of the spacewalkers.

The Russian government has immediately suspended all scheduled Soyuz launches while conducting a thorough investigation into the anomaly. They may find their mission extended, but at some point they will need to return to Earth. Their Soyuz capsule is good for about 200 days in orbit, period.

It could operate like that for a long time, barring a major equipment failure, he added. These vehicles, produced by the Boeing and SpaceX companies, are set to make their debut next year.

NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011 and ever since has relied on Russian Federation to take American astronauts to and from the space station.

"But never in the 20-year history of the ISS program has a manned Soyuz rocket experienced a problem on launch". He said Russian Federation will share all relevant information with the U.S.

Thursday's aborted launch took place in the presence of NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine who was visiting Russian Federation and Baikonur this week.

And for Kremlin planners, space science is one of the only few remaining areas - other than nuclear arms and military hardware - where Russian Federation is seen as being a peer to the United States.

Kenny Todd, operations integration manager at the International Space Station said he "had every confidence that our Russian colleagues will figure out what's going on".

The hole that appeared in a Russian Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS caused a brief loss of air pressure in August before being patched.

"Rescue services have been working since the first second of the accident", Rogozin wrote on Twitter. He didn't say if he suspected any of the station's crew.

Vladimir Titov and Gennady Strekalov survived a fire during launch in Kazakhstan in 1983. "This is a very hard business that we're in". This caused the capsule to drop very sharply into the Earth's atmosphere. However, the two sides have continued their cooperation in space.

While Russian rockets had earned a reputation for reliability in the past, launch failures in recent years has called into doubt Russia's ability to maintain the same high standards of manufacturing.

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