NASA, Russian astronauts on failed launch will get another flight, Russia official says

Abort triggered when rocket booster failed to separate

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

Russian crews are collecting pieces of rocket debris in the desert of Kazakhstan a day after two astronauts survived an emergency landing when a Russian rocket failed mid-launch, however, the head of the agency says both crew will launch again.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin were a few minutes into their flight on the Soyuz-FG rocket when a problem occurred and the spacecraft automatically aborted the space capsule, jettisoning the astronauts safely back to Earth.

Ovchinin, 47, previously visited the space station in 2016, spending 172 days in orbit. For Hague, this would have been his first trip to space. He was the first of his 2013 astronaut class to be called up for a flight.

On Friday, the head of Russian space agency Dmitry Rogozin said both men will get another shot at their mission to ISS.

"The boys will certainly fly their mission," Rogozin tweeted, posting a picture in which he sat with the two astronauts aboard a Moscow-bound plane. "We plan that they will fly in the spring."

Hague and Rogozin will spend a couple of days at Star City undergoing routine medical checks, before Hague returns to Houston. Both men were reunited with their families hours after what could have been a tragedy.

Hague released his first comment about the mishap Friday on Twitter.

"Thank you all for your support & heartfelt prayers. Operational teams were outstanding in ensuring our safety & returning us to family & friends," Hague said. "Working with our international partners, I’m confident that we will find a path forward & continue the achievements of @Space_Station."

The Soyuz- FG rocket is grounded until the investigation is complete, leaving NASA and Russian astronauts without transportation to the International Space Station.

Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin , left, and NASA astronaut Nick Hague, right. embrace their families after landing at the Krayniy Airport, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018 in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Russian officials have already said they know when the failure occurred, however, what caused it is under investigation.

Sergei Krikalyov, the head of Roscosmos' crewed programs, told Russian media the cause of the failure happened when one of the rocket's four boosters failed to separate damaging the rocket's main stage and triggering an emergency abort.

"We will need to look and analyze the specific cause -- whether it was a cable, a pyro or a nut," he said. "We need more data."

A committee has been formed to determine what prevented the booster's separation. Russian media reports that the commission was given two weeks for its investigation and expected to provide its findings before the end of the month.

As for when the Soyuz will begin launching again, Roscsmos said it plans "to speed up the preparation of a new launch vehicle in order to make a decision as soon as possible on the schedule of further launches."

Russian and NASA officials have both said the International Space Station can be operated without crew for an extended time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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