American, Russian crew members jettison to safety after rocket failure on mission to space station

MOSCOW — A Russian Soyuz rocket malfunctioned shortly after liftoff Thursday on a mission to the International Space Station, forcing the two-member crew — an American and Russian — to trigger an escape system that sent them on a hurtling emergency landing 200 miles away in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

The two astronauts were not harmed, but the failure of the normally reliable Soyuz MS-10 rocket will likely extend the time in orbit for the crew aboard the International Space Station, which relies on Russian rockets as its sole lifeline.

The parachutes deployed properly, but the capsule was on trajectory described as a steep “ballistic” descent that put Hague and Ovchinin under more than six times the force of gravity, NASA and Russia’s space agency said.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin board the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft before the launch at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Oct. 11, 2018.

Smoke rise as the boosters of first stage of the Soyuz-FG rocket with Soyuz MS-10 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station on Oct. 11, 2018.

(Dmitri Lovetsky/AP) [Russia suggests sabotage on the International Space Station] Russia’s Interfax news agency, citing sources in Russia’s space program, said the space station crew will likely have to wait until early next year before another mission can be planned to bring supplies and take them home.

Russian controllers told the space station astronauts that Hague and Ovchinin endured 6.7 times the force of gravity during their steeper than usual escape descent, the Associated Press reported.

[Companies in the Cosmos: A series from The Washington Post] It was the first time that the Soyuz — the main workhorse of manned space flight today — had failed on a launch to the 20-year-old International Space Station.

The failure on Thursday puts tremendous pressure on NASA and the two companies — SpaceX and Boeing — it has hired to fly its astronauts to the space station.

But the delays in nasa’s so-called “commercial crew program” have concerned some that if the companies can’t get their vehicles ready, the space agency won’t have any way to get its astronauts to space.

In June, the spacecraft Boeing plans to use to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station suffered a significant setback when, during a test of its emergency abort system, officials discovered a propellant leak.

Read more: Space, nuclear, polar bears: Russia and the U.S. still agree on some things NASA talking to companies about taking over the International Space Station Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news

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