September 9, 2011
Defect Caused Soyuz Failure To Reach Orbit
Russian space agency Roscosmos said Friday that the reason for the Soyuz rocket failure on August 24 was a production line defect.
The space agency said a blocked duct cut the fuel supply to the Soyuz-U's third stage, causing its engine to shut down prematurely.
The Soyuz rockets are currently the only transportation to the International Space Station since NASA retired its shuttle program in July.
Russia grounded its Soyuz fleet after the accident a month ago. The space agency has since delayed the next manned mission, which was planned for September 22.
According to the new report, the engine defect should not be considered a one-off problem until all other existing Soyuz engines had been re-examined.
The space station has lost three tons of supplies because of the August incident, which has been continuously manned for over a decade.
Another issue is beginning to arise with the restriction placed on how long astronauts are allowed to stay in space. The limit is 200 days and is tied to the safety certification on their return capsules.
Half of the six crew members aboard the ISS are due to come home next week, while the others are expected to follow by the end of November.
If no crew is launched before the end of November, the ISS will be left temporarily abandoned.
The August 24 failure occurred just 320 seconds after the Soyuz lifted away from Baikonur.
The early third-stage engine shut-down meant the Progress cargo ship aboard the rocket did not have enough speed to make it into orbit.
On the Net: