How one rocket failure has delayed Russian and US space missions

The US has announced that four astronauts have had to “temporarily dock” with the International Space Station to use its handrails following a rocket malfunction which brought space debris back down to Earth.

A Russian cargo ship carrying 4 tonnes of supplies failed to dock with the ISS on Friday, leading to its flight ending in “a controlled orbit” with debris from the failure hitting the ISS a few days later.

The US will now conduct its own investigation of the incident.

“As a precaution, the crew was asked to enter a protective hatch to add the support needed to relocate the Soyuz cargo spacecraft to a landing location, providing us with additional resupply capacity,” US Mission Control said in a statement.

The latest abort not only held up crew activities but also stopped the Russians carrying out the test of an anti-satellite weapon in orbit.

According to Russia, after Friday’s rocket failure, the Soyuz failed to arrive at the ISS as planned and would not have been able to carry out the test.

Although no damage has been reported, the crew did suffer discomfort as the debris was coming towards them.

RFE/RL’s Scott Anderson said that the astronauts settled on hooks to allow the object to drop for safe distance.

The incident marks the second time in less than a month that the crew of the ISS have had to take shelter after rocket launches, according to NPO Mashinostroyenia, the Russian space agency, which said the crew did so “following instructions from Mission Control, in the safest and most comfortable manner possible.”

In June, the ISS crew was brought back down to Earth after a launch experiment with a probe designed to serve as a precursor to the introduction of nuclear-powered rockets.

Last week, NPO Mashinostroyenia officials announced that this test was complete and the launch of a nuclear-powered Soyuz rocket was planned to take place at the end of August.

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