Written by CNN Staff Writer
The space station crew aboard the International Space Station scrambled to safety after one of their Soyuz-FG spacecrafts was thrown into orbit by a ballistic missile test Saturday.
A ballistic missile test in China
A Soyuz-FG rocket carrying two Soyuz capsules, carrying NASA astronaut Anne McClain and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev, was launched Saturday at 4:27 p.m. ET from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
It was fired into orbit at a high altitude and reached its destination 70 minutes later.
But at 4:47 p.m. ET, the crew was notified that their Soyuz-FG rocket had experienced what was described as a “failure of separation.” It had lost maneuverability and the crew was forced to make a tactical emergency escape plan.
Soyuz-FG rocket launched Saturday. Credit: Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations
“The crew planned a tactical emergency escape, an emergency exit to return to the landing site,” NASA said in a tweet.
The spacecraft’s pilot declared a dive into the Earth’s atmosphere.
Kononenko — who controls Soyuz spacecrafts — responded to the test.
“Response from the spacecraft was perfect and in the correct position to evacuate as intended,” he tweeted.
While the capsule’s escape worked as planned, it left the crew exposed to possible debris fragments.
Interfax news agency reported that a rocket booster left the Soyuz-FG rocket on its side, and that the missile also failed to intercept the submarine-launched missile that had reportedly launched.
Russian media claimed that the rocket had been shot down by the missile.
International Space Station crew members planned a tactical emergency escape in the event of a ballistic missile test in Russia. Credit: Nina Brozhenko via Wikipedia Commons
Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said Saturday that all was under control and that space experts were studying the situation.
As it happened
The United States maintains close military and diplomatic ties with China, but the two countries have not had good ties with each other.
China has already tested a ballistic missile in a territory claimed by both Washington and Moscow.
It tested a new type of surface-to-surface cruise missile on March 28, in its first test flight of the missile, its defense ministry said.
The test had taken place after preparations were made and in the area directly adjacent to a military section occupied by China in Sainte Marina in the northwestern part of Tibet.
The test was aimed at improving performance for the missile, which will be used for an undefined military purpose, the defense ministry said.
The Chinese rocket, the YJ-18MH ballistic missile, is capable of carrying a multiple warhead, according to a report by the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission, an independent government body.
Friday’s test, according to Lt. Gen. Alan Scherbinski, the director of the Center for Defense Information, is another example of China “importing technology from hostile systems.”
A ballistic missile test by the Soviet Union in April 1983 killed two Americans and wounded 35 others.