NASA officials say a Soyuz 2.1b rocket crash today should not impact International Space Station operations because its failed third stage is significant different than the third stage engine on Soyuz FG rockets and Soyuz U rockets that launch crews and cargo, respectively, to the outpost.
"The Russian Soyuz 2.1b booster that was lost on Dec. 23 has a different third stage engine than the Soyuz boosters used for launching Progress cargo vehicles or Soyuz capsules," James Hartsfield, a spokesman for NASA's Johnson Space Center, said in a statement.
"This mishap is unlikely to have any effect on operations to the International Space Station because of the major differences between the two engines," he added. "Our Russian colleagues provided timely information to NASA, and they will ensure there are no impacts to the Soyuz boosters used for launches to the space station. Detailed questions on the failure and corrective measures should be directed to Roscosmos."
A Soyuz 2.1b rocket failed about seven minutes after launch today from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. A third-stage engine failure was blamed.
The station has been half-staffed for the past four months as a result of an investigation into an Aug. 24 Soyuz U launch accident, which also was blamed on a third-stage engine failure.
The Soyuz U and the Soyuz FG both use a RD-0110 engine to power their third stages.
Variants of the Soyuz 2.1b employ Fregat upper stage engines.