Spaceflight Insider

Multiple fatalities prompt Roscosmos to step up safety measures

Soyuz booster recovery (2009-08-25)

File photo of workers recovering a spent booster after it crashed into the ground in one of the designated drop zones. Photo Credit: Christian Frei, Switzerland

The death of two workers following the June 14, 2017, launch of a Soyuz rocket carrying the Progress MS-06 resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station has prompted Roscosmos officials to step up safety efforts.

The two workers were part of a team tasked with mitigating the effects of falling, spent rocket components after impacting in designated drop zones. Those hazardous areas, located on the flat, grassy Kazakh Steppe, often experience extreme weather conditions.

Beyond large temperature swings – sometimes more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) over the course of a day – the treeless plains encounter strong wind gusts. It was one of these gusts that claimed the life of Yuri Khatyushin.

According to reports, when Khatyushin arrived at the drop site, a strong gust fanned the flames of a brush fire that had erupted from the fallen rocket stage, engulfing his vehicle.

Another worker, Vyacheslav Tyts, suffered serious burns when removing fallen pieces from the Soyuz rocket. Tyts later died from his injuries after being hospitalized for more than two weeks.

“In order to prevent similar incidents, state corporation Roscosmos has introduced additional measures intended to minimize possible negative consequences from launches,” a representative from the Russian space agency said in Tass.

To lessen the likelihood of future occurrences, Roscosmos officials, in cooperation with the Kazakh government, have proposed monitoring the drop zones via both satellite and aerial imagery. Though it’s not clear exactly what may be monitored, weather and environmental conditions likely top the list.

It is also unclear if these safety precautions will be implemented before the launch of the Kanopus-V-IK satellite aboard a Soyuz rocket, currently slated to lift off on July 14, 2017.

Launch video of Progress MS-06 courtesy of Roscosmos

 

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Curt Godwin has been a fan of space exploration for as long as he can remember, keeping his eyes to the skies from an early age. Initially majoring in Nuclear Engineering, Curt later decided that computers would be a more interesting - and safer - career field. He's worked in education technology for more than 20 years, and has been published in industry and peer journals, and is a respected authority on wireless network engineering. Throughout this period of his life, he maintained his love for all things space and has written about his experiences at a variety of NASA events, both on his personal blog and as a freelance media representative.

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