A Russian Soyuz rocket destined for the International Space Station experienced a failure during launch yesterday.

Six minutes after launch Roscosmos (Russia’s space corporation) stated that a booster was experiencing a malfunction. The crew members – NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin – were forced to make a ballistic reentry.

While a ballistic reentry means crew experience higher than usual G-forces, both crew members made it back to Earth safely where rescue teams were waiting for them.

Following the failure of the Soyuz rocket booster, Russian space agency Roscosmos has formed a commission to investigate the cause of the failure.

“NASA will support Roscosmos’ investigation into the incident. In parallel, NASA and the International Space Station partners will review upcoming operational schedules, including the plan for two spacewalks targeted later in October,” NASA said in a statement.

The failure of the Soyuz launch presents an interesting problem as The Verge points out.

The Russian space vessel is the only mode of transport NASA has to ferry astronauts and cosmonauts to the International Space Station. The current team onboard the satellite Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Alexander Gerst and Sergey Prokopyev has been there since June and is scheduled to return to Earth in December.

That gives Roscosmos a little over two months to determine what went wrong with the Soyuz booster rocket and attempt the launch again.

ISS Operations integration manager, Kenny Todd believes that the Russian space agency will make this investigation a priority.

“It’s my speculation and I think it’s fairly accurate that this will be a high-priority [investigation] and they will put a lot of resources on trying to figure out exactly what happened,” Todd said at a press conference. “Whether that’s a month, two months or six months I can’t speculate.”

That having been said, the crew aboard the ISS right now might have to abandon the vessel come December if a rocket is not ready to ferry a replacement crew to orbit.

We have to take a moment to congratulate both NASA and Roscosmos on getting Hague and Ovchinin back to terra firma safely. It’s not an easy feat especially in an emergency situation and the fact that both are safe is worth applauding.

[Image – CC BY NC ND 2.0 NASA HQ PHOTO]