An investigation has found that a failed Russian rocket launch three weeks ago that aborted after just two minutes was caused by a sensor that was damaged during assembly, a top Russian official said on Thursday.
This collision triggered an automatic abort of one of the Soyuz's abort systems, pulling the crew of NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin safely away from the rocket, and sending them on a ballistic return to Earth.
"In order to avoid shifting the ISS to an unmanned mode, the industry is exerting considerable efforts to make the launch possible on December 3", Sergei Krikalyov, the executive director of the manned spaceflight program at Russia's Roskosmos space agency, said on October 31.
Last week, Russian Federation successfully launched a Soyuz rocket for the first time since the failure.
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The accident was the first serious launch problem experienced by a manned Soyuz space mission since 1983, when a crew narrowly escaped before a launch pad explosion.
The Russian Soyuz spacecraft is now the only vehicle for ferrying crews to the International Space Station after the USA space shuttle fleet retired.
The current ISS crew, the ESA's Alexander Gerst, NASA's Serena Aunon-Chancellor, and Roscosmos' Sergey Prokopyev, are expected to return to Earth around December 20, a week after their originally-scheduled December 13 descent.
Two astronauts made emergency landing in Kazakhstan after failure of Soyuz rocket on October 11.
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On the rocket destined for the ISS will be Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, and NASA astronaut Anne McClain.
The malfunction led to one of the four boosters on the first stage failing to detach correctly and colliding with a fuel tank of the second stage, which exploded.
Roscosmos has scheduled a press conference for November 1 to further detail the outcome of its investigation.
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