Launch failure may imperil Canadian astronaut's trip to ISS

The launch of the Soyuz rocket

The Soyuz rocket carrying the two astronauts at liftoff

The astronauts were to dock at the International Space Station six hours after the launch, but the Soyuz booster suffered an unspecified failure and shut down minutes after the launch.

"The launch had a problem with the booster (rocket) a few seconds after the first stage separation and we can confirm now that the crew has started to go into ballistic descent mode", the voiceover on a NASA livestream from mission control in Houston said.

Glover, the NASA astronaut at the bar, received word that the astronauts were making a "ballistic descent", a much steeper and faster return to Earth than what is ideal - but that search-and-rescue crews were in contact with the astronauts.

Search teams reached the crew and reported them to be in good condition. Dzhezkazgan is about 450 kilometres northeast of Baikonur. The crew module was separated from the failed booster and was forced to initiate an emergency landing.

That's a diplomatic way to say the Russian booster failed, forcing the crew to perform a risky launch abort.

Today's failed Soyuz launch thankfully resulted in no casualties, but the fate of the International Space Station (ISS) is now in question.

"Spaceflight is hard. And we must keep trying for the benefit of humankind", ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted from aboard the space station as he watched and photographed the launch from space.

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Russian space agency Roscomos will reportedly perform an inspection of the Progress Rocket Space Centre, where manufacturing of the Soyuz rocket took place.

Hague and Ovchinin were travelling to the ISS to join three other crewmates for ISS Expedition 57. This is standard procedure, as they obviously don't want to launch another rocket and risk encountering the same issue.

Roscosmos is forming a state commission to investigate the incident, Dean said.

Even if the Soyuz spacecraft is cleared for launch before December, Hadfield said, it could end up carrying astronauts from Thursday's launch rather than the next scheduled crew. Officials are also investigating the odd hole recently found in a Soyuz spacecraft aboard the International Space Station.

In recent years, Russia's space programme has faced a number of technical failures - 13 since 2010.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine issued a statement saying he was "grateful that everyone is safe" and that "a thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted". The space agency recently announced the nine astronauts that will crew the test flights and first missions of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Neither NASA or Roscosmos will be jumping to any conclusions, but Russian Federation has promised a full investigation and is forming a team to look into how and why the rocket failed as it did.

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