At 08:40 UTC on 2018-10-11, Soyuz MS-10 launched toward the International Space Station with a crew of two on board: Commander Aleksey Ovchinin of the Russian Space Agency and Flight Engineer Nick Hague of NASA.
Shortly after the separation of the four first stage boosters, around two minutes into the flight, Russian mission control began to report “failure”. The animation shown on NASA TV continued to show a nominal mission. There were several additional reports of failure, including the time.
Shortly thereafter, Ovchinin reported a ballistic re-entry had been selected, and then that they were weightless. Then, he reported G forces building to 6.5 (consistent with a steep ballistic re-entry), and then declining to something over two [I think 2.5 or 2.7, but I do not have a recording], which would indicate having passed through the peak of re-entry braking.
There have been no reports from the crew since then. Russian mission control reports that recovery helicopters have been dispatched to the predicted landing zone, and are expected to take around 90 minutes to arrive. The launch was on a northeast azimuth, so landing would be expected to be in northern Russia.
After a long delay (presumably because the descent capsule had passed over the horizon from the tracking stations), rescue forces reported that they had contacted the crew by radio. The crew reported that they had landed and were in good condition.
I will add updates in the comments as events unfold.
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Vlast is a documentary, made in 2010, about Russia in the late 1990s and 2000s. It centers on Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the erstwhile head of Yukos (the Russian oil and gas company) and his close associates. Khodorkovsky was one of the Russian oligarchs who acquired his wealth during the 1990s as the Russian government was divesting itself of state-owned enterprises under Yeltsin. He was subsequently arrested, tried, and imprisoned for a decade until being pardoned by Putin, whereupon he gained residency in Switzerland. Yukos was sold, via a sham auction, to connected members of the nomenklatura.
The film allows that Khodorkovsky may have used some unsavory and possibly illegal means to obtain his wealth, it also makes clear that Putin was threatened by Khodorkovsky’s political activism, which led to his prosecution. A number of his associates were also caught up in the sweep. According to his lawyer (interviewed in the film), he was well aware of the danger of being arrested on false charges but refused to flee the country.
One thesis of the film is that the sudden transition of Russia from a centrally-planned economy to a quasi-free-market system resulted in disruptions that were not manageable and led to the rise of Putin. It portrays Khodorkovsky as a reformer who became interested in advancing western-style democratic and market principles.
It’s clear that he put too much confidence in the rule of law in post-Soviet Russia. Khodorkovsky and his associates thought that the reforms made under Yeltsin were irreversible. To their dismay, rule of law and market reforms were readily reversed, partly because the dislocations the reforms caused made them unpopular.
Vlast is streaming on Netflix.
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