Two weeks after a disastrous launch, the Soyuz capsule took flight once again to deliver a military intelligence satellite in orbit on Thursday, Oct. 25.
The Soyuz-2.1 rocket lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome carrying a Russian payload believed to be the fourth Lotos satellites. The rocket launched at 3:15 a.m. Moscow time without a hitch.
The launch on Thursday is Russia's first since a Soyuz capsule that was carrying two astronauts to the International Space Station malfunctioned shortly after liftoff. Nick Hague, an American, and Alexey Ovchinin, a Russian, lifted off on Oct. 11 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Before reaching orbit, however, the two astronauts onboard the Soyuz capsule had to make a ballistic descent, meaning, they have to fall back down to the ground in a sharp angle that subjected them to a much greater G-force. While their descent was uncomfortable, to say the least, the astronauts were rescued and were unharmed by the incident.
As a response to the malfunction, Russia's space agency Roscosmos launched an investigation of the incident. Since then, all Soyuz launches have been suspended.
Investigators have not released an official report to explain the malfunction that caused the Soyuz to make an emergency landing two weeks ago. However, a Russian news agency said that officials suspect that one of the rocket's first stage boosters was not properly attached to the core.
The Roscosmos investigation is expected to conclude with a final report by Oct. 30.
NASA Schedules December Manned Soyuz Launch
Space Flight Now reported that additional Soyuz rocket launches in November, which will deliver satellites in orbit, might clear the way for manned liftoff by December. NASA is eyeing an Oct. 3 launch to the ISS.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine slammed "salacious" reports about the botched launch. He also assured that Roscosmos has been transparent while the investigations are ongoing.
"I have all the confidence in the world that nobody is in jeopardy at this point," he stated. "I certainly don't want to put into jeopardy the relationship between Roscosmos and NASA."
Earlier this year, astronauts onboard the ISS also found a hole inside one of the docked Soyuz capsule. It caused an air leak, but the hole has since been patched without causing any more serious damage.