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Engine failure suspected in Soyuz explosion; ISS launch may be delayed
Posted: Thu, Oct 17, 2002, 2:25 PM ET (1825 GMT)
Soyuz launch of Foton-M Russian officials believe that an engine on the Soyuz booster launched late Tuesday failed shortly after launch, causing the crash that killed one person on the ground and possibly delaying a manned Soyuz taxi flight to the International Space Station. The Moscow Times reported Thursday that one of the booster's four RD-107 engines malfunctioned and "fell off" 29 seconds after launch, causing automated systems on the booster to abort the flight. Other sources said the failure took place 20 seconds after launch. The booster exploded when it hit the ground. The one person killed in the crash, a 20-year-old Russian Space Forces serviceman, was working in an assembly and test building one kilometer from the launch site at the time of the launch; he was killed by debris within the building generated by the explosion's shock wave. Officials with Rosaviakosmos have made no decision yet regarding the October 27 Soyuz TMA-1 launch, but they note that the engines used in this Soyuz booster are virtually identical to those used to launch manned spacecraft, with the only difference being advanced fuel injector systems used in the manned boosters. SPACE.com quoted an RSC Energia official who said the launch could be delayed "a couple of days" to investigate the problem. A lengthy delay could pose problems for the ISS, since the Soyuz spacecraft currently docked with the station will have spent 200 days in orbit by mid-November, and is not rated for use after that point.
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