For the first time in 33 years: Soyuz flight is emergency disrupted 20 seconds before launch

The Russian Soyuz 2.1a rocket carrying the Soyuz MS-25 spacecraft with a crew of three astronauts who were supposed to reach the International Space Station failed to take off due to an emergency stop 20 seconds before the scheduled launch. NASA spokesman Rob Navias said during a live broadcast: “The Soyuz launch to the space station has been aborted.” This sudden cancellation of the launch took place for the first time in the history of modern Russian cosmonautics.

Photo of the Soyuz 2.1a rocket at the launch site in Baikonur

“This has never happened before. In the history of Russian cosmonautics, launches of manned spacecraft have never been canceled just before the start command. Various excesses have happened with unmanned missions, but not with manned ones,” the TASS news agency reports.

The NASA’s Mission Control Center stressed that the crew was safe, and all necessary safety procedures had been completed.

The launch was scheduled for March 21 from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz MS-25 crew consists of NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novistky and cosmonaut from Belarus Marina Vasilevskaya. The crew is to join the Expedition 71 mission to the ISS. Two astronauts planned to spend six months at the station, and Vasilevskaya – 12 days.

The launch of the rocket was disrupted due to an emergency stop of the countdown. Roscosmos engineers went to the launch site to check the safety of the rocket and evacuate the crew.

NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky and participant from Belarus Marina Vasilevskaya. Photo: NASA

Subsequently, the reason for the countdown stop was revealed — it was due to a low battery. 

“The reason has been established. At a meeting of the state commission, it was found out that the cause was a voltage drop in a chemical current source,” said Yuri Borisov, Director General of Roscosmos. 

The next launch opportunity will be determined only after a full investigation of the causes of the accident. According to preliminary data, the start was postponed to the morning of March 23, but the date is likely to be postponed. 

Now Soyuz rockets and manned spacecraft of this series, developed during the Soviet Union, remain the main means for Roscosmos to deliver astronauts to the ISS. But due to outdated technologies, malfunctions happen to these spacecraft from time to time.

The previous Soyuz accident occurred in October 2018 due to a deformed sensor on the rocket, which led to an emergency landing of the capsule with the crew. Also, recently, a hole was found in the Soyuz MS-22 docked to the ISS, which caused the Soyuz MS-23 rescue mission to be equipped for the safe return of the crew to Earth.

Earlier we talked about the story of the Soyuz-1 and Soyuz-11 tragedies.

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