Soyuz rocket launch scrubbed due to faulty IMU

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Uh-oh: A Soyuz rocket launch from French Guiana was scrubbed an hour before launch on Sunday because of detected problems with the inertial measurement unit (IMU) in its navigational system.

Arianespace chief executive Stephane Israel tweeted Sunday that the faulty inertial measurement unit, or IMU, will be replaced overnight in time for a launch attempt Monday. The IMU is located on the Soyuz rocket’s third stage and is used to determine the heading and orientation of the vehicle in the first nine minutes of its mission, feeding critical attitude data to the launcher’s guidance computers, which transmit steering commands to the engines.

The venerable Soyuz booster flies more often than any other launcher in the world, and delays due to technical causes are rare. [emphasis mine]

This is not good news for Russia’s aerospace industry, as it suggests that the quality control problems Russia has experienced with the company that manufactures its Proton rocket are now beginning to appear with the different company that manufactures the Soyuz rocket.

If true, this is also very bad news for American astronauts, who must use this rocket to get to and from space.


  • Matt

    Your over-whelming anti-Russian attitude and hate are ridiculous!

  • Edward

    Looks like the fourth time is the charm. Successful launch, today:

    Having worked in the industry for a while, I am not overly surprised that a unit was discovered to be faulty. It happens; I have been involved in shipping several faulty units back to their manufacturers, throughout the manufacture and test phases. Over the years, the US has had its own problems with last minute problems showing up in preflight checkouts, too.

    I’m not quite so certain that this is a real indication that the IMU manufacturer is having quality control problems, but if this begins to happen often, then I would start to worry.

    However, the Russians are having some turmoil in their space industry, and this can lead to problems, including with quality control. I worked for a company, a couple of decades ago, while they were having problem after problem with an important project’s tests. It was never the same problem twice, and the leadership finally decided that the (then) recent downsize of the aerospace industry had caused too many experienced test engineers to leave the company, resulting in the remaining engineers being too inexperienced to do the job right. We test engineers, throughout the company, not just the problematic project, were sent to test engineering classes to prevent widespread QC problems in the test departments.

  • D K Rögnvald Williams

    At least they caught the problem in time.

  • Tom Billings

    “Your over-whelming anti-Russian attitude and hate are ridiculous!”

    Matt, Robert Z. has a far more positive view of the Russian Space Program than many. He simply refuses to don rose-colored glasses when looking at a legislated monopoly that is having its budget slashed. Face the facts! Russia, for all its efforts over the last 60 years in spaceflight, is a rentier state, as dependent on the price of oil as is Saudi Arabia. As long as oil prices are kept low by fracking or other influences, the corruption that built up during the Soviet era, and which has continued blossoming since then, will have nothing to feed it, except the same budget needed to keep the quality of Russian launchers high.

    We have problems at the top of our own spaceflight funding hierarchies as well, but the Russians have got 10-20 Senator Shelby lookalikes for every one we’ve got. We even have lost astronauts to the effects of our own hierarchs placing their interests first. That means knowledgeable people like Robert Z. are even more worried when we see similar effects in the Russian Program. The attitude is *not* anti-Russian, but anti-agency cost, which Robert Z. has been exemplary about displaying in *both* cases, the U.S. *and* Russia!

  • Thank you for the support. I really appreciate it.

    To Matt: Stick around and you will find that I aim my independent light saber at everyone, for good or ill. Tell the truth, and I will say good things about you. Lie, and you will find out that I notice and will tell the world.

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