BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan – A spacecraft that was to due to resupply the International Space Station had its launch aborted with just seconds remaining on its countdown after a technical problem in a final automated sequence was detected, causing its engines to shut down, Russian space authorities and NASA said on Sunday.
The rocket remained safely on its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan according to Russia’s Roscosmos space agency and a backup launch date was set for Feb. 13.
“During the launch operations, engines were shut down automatically; the cause of the incident is being investigated,” Roscosmos said.
The Russian Progress MS-08 resupply ship was set to be propelled atop the Soyuz 2-1A rocket to deliver 1,390 kilograms (3,064 pounds) of dry cargo, 890 kilograms of propellant, 430 kilograms of water and 46 kilograms of compressed air and oxygen for the ISS when ground controllers called off the launch.
The launch had hoped to establish a new resupply speed record by docking at the ISS just 3˝ hours after liftoff.
The Soyuz rocket is derived from Sergei Korolev’s R-7, which became the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) when it made its maiden flight in 1957. A modified R-7 was used to deploy the world’s first satellite, Sputnik 1, later the same year, and the R-7 would also form the basis of the Vostok rocket that carried Yuri Gagarin into orbit in 1961 – as well as the later Voskhod rocket.
The original Soyuz rocket, designated 11A511, first flew in 1966 as an improved version of the Voskhod intended to launch manned missions with the Soyuz spacecraft that was then in development. A further improvement, Soyuz-U, first flew in the mid-1970s and remained in service until last year. The Soyuz-2 – which made its debut in 2004 – modernizes the rocket, incorporating digital flight control systems and improved engines.