BAIKONUR: Nasa astronaut Nick Hague and his Russian colleague Alexey Ovchinin, who survived a dramatically aborted Soyuz launch last year, were due to blast off again to the International Space Station on Thursday. The two men will be joined by US astronaut Christina Koch for lift-off from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1914 GMT.
The launch will be closely watched after the two men’s space journey was cut short in October when a technical problem with their Soyuz rocket triggered a launch abort two minutes into the flight. Both men escaped unharmed.
It was the first such accident in Russia’s post-Soviet history and a major setback for its once proud space industry.
Speaking to reporters ahead of their six-month mission, flight commander Ovchinin said that some faulty components in the launch vehicle had been found and replaced this week. “Yesterday they found some minor malfunctions,” the 47-year-old said on Wednesday.
He insisted that the launch vehicle was in good shape. “There are no problems,” Ovchinin said. Hague, 43, said he was looking forward to the flight — his second attempt to get into space.
“I’m 100 percent confident in the rocket and the spaceship,” he said.The October abort was caused by a sensor damaged during the rocket’s assembly.
Space expert Vadim Lukashevich said last-minute replacements were nothing out of the ordinary. “The Soyuz is an old but reliable machine,” he said.
Russia’s space industry has in recent years suffered a lot of mishaps including the loss of cargo spacecraft and numerous satellites.
Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2019