Russia aborted space mission 20 seconds before takeoff

The cancellation occurred as the Soyuz was already on the launch pad preparing to depart at 13:21 GMT.

The Russian space agency Roscosmos canceled the launch of three astronauts to the International Space Station on Thursday, just about 20 seconds before liftoff, but the crew is safe, authorities reported.

The Soyuz MS-25 rocket was scheduled to lift off from the Baikonur base in Kazakhstan carrying NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson, Roscosmos’ Oleg Novitsky, and Belarusian Marina Vasilevskaya.

The cancellation occurred as the Soyuz was already on the launch pad preparing to depart at 13:21 GMT.

Roscosmos explained that the liftoff was canceled by an automated safety system just as the spacecraft’s engines were ready for ignition and emitting smoke.

“Attention. A flight cancellation has occurred automatically. Return the launch complex units to their starting state. Prepare for parking for 24 hours,” the Russian agency reported during the live broadcast.

The NASA commentator, who was also live-streaming the launch, indicated that “the engine sequence start that is normally expected at that time” did not occur, twenty seconds before liftoff.

“The automatic order to abort the countdown was issued, ending the launch,” he added.

According to NASA, “engineers are already on the launch pad to assess what may have triggered the interruption,” but the exact cause is still unknown. “The crew is safe aboard the Soyuz vehicle.”

Initially, the Soyuz MS-25 was supposed to be launched on March 13, but Roscosmos postponed it to March 21.

The spacecraft’s flight plan included docking with the Prichal module of the Russian segment of the orbital platform.

This is another setback for the Russian space sector, which has been suffering from funding problems, corruption scandals, and failures for years, such as the loss in August 2023 of the lunar probe Luna-25.

The flight was also supposed to be the first for a Belarusian cosmonaut, Marina Vasilevskaya.

“It is a great honor and pride for me to represent Belarus on the ISS. I am ready for the flight,” Vasilevskaya, a flight attendant for the Belarusian airline Belavia, told the BELTA news agency one day before the canceled flight.

Vasilevskaya’s flight was agreed upon by Russian President Vladimir Putin with his Belarusian counterpart and main ally, Alexander Lukashenko, in April 2022.

Currently on the ISS are Americans Loral O’Hara, Michael Barratt, Matthew Dominick, and Jeanette Epps.

For a long time, Soyuz spacecraft were the only means of reaching the International Space Station, but Roscosmos has faced competition from private companies like SpaceX, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, in recent years.

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