The launch of Soyuz TMA-3 atop a Soyuz-FG rocket.

The launch of Soyuz TMA-3 atop a Soyuz-FG rocket.

The launch of Soyuz TMA-3 atop a Soyuz-FG rocket. Soyuz is the most reliable spacecraft to date. Over its four-decade career, Soyuz U established a launch success rate of 97.2% (as of February 2017) – becoming a figure for industry standards aimed for by many rockets that followed. As of November 2017, the Soyuz FG, used to launch crews to the International Space Station, has a 100% success rate since its maiden flight on May 20, 2001. But, if anything goes wrong during the launch off, the Soyuz rocket is equipped with a robust and powerful system designed to save the crew called “Launch Escape Tower”, in case the rocket starts burning or explode on the launch pad. The Launch Escape Tower is itself a small and very powerful rocket made up of several engines which use solid propellant. It is capable of quickly extracting the crew compartments from the rest of the rocket in case of an imminent threat to the crew. The mechanism may be triggered automatically or upon command from the ground controllers. In the history, this system was put in use on only one occasion: in September 1983, while rocket was ready to lift off, a valve failed to close and causing the keroseneNotes 3 to spill onto the launch pad and ignite – just 90 seconds before the final ignition! Fortunately, the grand controllers activated the escape system two seconds before the launch vehicle exploded. Two crew members, Vladimir Titov and Gennady Strekalov experienced a fierce acceleration of 10 to 17 G (137 to 167 m/s2) for around five seconds, but their lives were saved. In the following years, the two cosmonauts would go on to fly several successful missions.

Leave a Reply