LAS CRUCES, N.M. — An incident took place during the Oct. 11 launch of a Soyuz spacecraft carrying two men to the International Space Station, with the status of the spacecraft and crew currently unknown.
A Soyuz rocket carrying the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:40 a.m. Eastern. The launch appeared to be normal until around first stage separation, when the crew reported a “failure” with the booster and feeling weightlessness.
NASA Television reported that the spacecraft was in a ballistic descent after apparently separating from the Soyuz rocket, making a return to Earth rather than heading to the International Space Station. No information about the projected landing location or status of the crew were immediately available. NASA said search and rescue crews were en route to the projected landing site, expecting to arrive in about 90 minutes.
The Soyuz was carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague, making his first spaceflight, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, making his second. The two were to arrive at the ISS about six hours after liftoff for a half-year stay.
A Soyuz failure could jeopardize continued operation of the International Space Station. Soyuz is currently the only means for crews to travel to and from the station, with commercial crew vehicles by Boeing and SpaceX not expected to be ready to enter service before the middle of 2019. The current Soyuz on the ISS, Soyus MS-09, launched in June and has an orbital lifetime of about 200 days.