The March 12th launch abort of a Soyuz rocket occurred because the Russians use the equivalent of a giant wooden match to ignite their Soyuz rocket engines.
Essentially, prior to launch engineers insert large wooden matches into each engine, and these are ignited using an electric spark prior to allowing fuel into the combustion chamber. When mission control sensors all matches are burning, they open the valves and fuel enters the chamber, igniting and incinerating the matches.
This setup is not as simple as a regular match, but it is surprisingly reliable and has worked for six decades on hundreds of rockets. Yet on March 12, during the first attempt to launch the new Russian satellite for Earth observation, one of the “matches” failed to fire after the ignition command was issued. It was enough of a problem for the launch control system, which detected the lack of signal from the failed igniter, to call off the propellant injection into combustion chambers. The launch was aborted just a moment before liftoff, and the fully fueled rocket remained safely on the pad.
To launch the next day, they simply replaced the matches and tried again, quite successfully.
The article makes me wonder how other rockets ignite their engines.
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