Soyuz Rocket Failure Forces NASA Astronauts to Abort ISS Mission

NASA has said search and rescue teams are on their way to the Russian Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft capsule after an issue with its booster rockets meant the two astronauts on board had to abort their mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

It launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and American astronaut Nick Hague onboard, but they were forced to abandon their flight to the ISS within minutes. They were scheduled for a six-month stay on the ISS.

The crew returned to Earth in a capsule via what NASA called "a ballistic descent, which is a sharper angle of landing compared to normal."

"The Soyuz capsule has landed back on Earth carrying two crew members. Search and rescue teams are in contact with the crew and are en route to the landing location," NASA said in a tweet.

In a follow-up tweet, NASA said: "Search and rescue teams report they are in contact with the Soyuz crew, who report they are in good condition. The teams are en route to the landing site."

A video of the communications between the astronauts and the ground team was posted to Twitter by Steve Spaleta. An emergency is reported at 2 minutes and 45 seconds into the mission, and a woman is heard identifying "the failure of the booster" as being the reason.

Here is today's Soyuz launch, the call out of "booster failure" by the Russian translator occurred about 3 minutes 15 seconds into the video. The spacecraft is currently on a ballistic re-entry back to Earth.

— Steve Spaleta (@stevespaleta) October 11, 2018

Russian rockets have been used to ferry NASA astronauts to and from the ISS for the better part of a decade. In August, however, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov said the country will stop taking NASA astronauts to the ISS after its contract comes to an end in April 2019, Kommersant FM 93.6 reports.

The Soyuz malfunction arrives in the wake of another issue on board the ISS between the two nations.

In August, the ISS started to leak. Shortly after, Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, suggested a hole had been drilled on purpose. "We can see the mark where the drill bit slid along the surface of the hull," Rogozin told RIA Novosti, a Russian news agency. "We want to find out the full name of who is at fault—and we will."

In response, NASA said: "Russian media recently reported that General Director Rogozin said the hole was not a manufacturing defect. Ruling out a manufacturing defect indicates that this is an isolated issue which does not categorically affect future production.

"This conclusion does not necessarily mean the hole was created intentionally or with mal-intent. NASA and Roscosmos are both investigating the incident to determine the cause."

At the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Expedition 57 crew members Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Nick Hague of NASA (from left) pose for pictures in front of their Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft during final prelaunch training, in Kazakhstan, on September 26. NASA/Victor Zelentsov

Additional reporting by Hannah Osborne.