Via José (and also reported at MSNBC.com):
The reason for the rough landing of Soyuz TMA-10 has been determined
The reason for the ballistic descent of the descent vehicle Soyuz TMA-10 with the ISS crew members onboard during 21 October 2007, was caused by damage to a cable in the spacecraft’s control panel, said RKK Energiya leader Vitalii Lopota.
“The Commission of Inquiry for the reasons for the contingency situation finished its work and established that the reason for ballistic descent was the cable fault, which connected the control panel with the Soyuz descent equipment,” said Lopota. According to him, RKK Energiya will take all measures to avoid a repetition of this situation.
On 21 October 2007 the descending ship capsule Soyuz TMA-10, on which was being returned the members of the 15th ISS Expedition – Russians Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov (more half a year in orbit) and the first cosmonaut of Malaysia, Sheik Muzafar Shukor (11 days in orbit) – passed from the controlled regime to ballistic. The capsule landed 70 kilometers from the planned landing place and the cosmonauts endured overloads up to nine gravities/units.
According to the chief ballastician of Mission Control Center (TSUP), Nikolai Ivanov, the overload was short-term and did not threaten the health and life of the cosmonauts. “The ballistic descent – into the regime of which the day before, the descent vehicle with the cosmonauts of the 15th Expedition and the first cosmonaut of Malaysia, the control system transferred in the section of descent into the Earth’s atmosphere – is not a nonstandard regime, and the overload to nine units, tested by the crew and which was being continued of approximately ten seconds, did not threaten their life and health,” said Ivanov. “There was a failure, but the Soyuz control system not only did not refuse, but, that – of principal importance – successfully transferred the descent vehicle into the more reliable regime of descent into the Earth’s atmosphere. If this happened, God forbid, with the American shuttle, in which a regime of ballistic descent is not provided, then it would be necessary to go with a funeral procession to meet the astronauts inside it.”
The difference between the ballistic and controlled descent is that the controlled automation constantly orients the descent vehicle by its flat lower part to the Earth, which ensures lift due to the incidental airflow, and it ensures minimum overloads for the crew up to four gravities/units, Ivanov explained. “The descent along the ballistic trajectory without the participation of lift is comparable with a falling stone, but if we permitted it to fall like a stone, then the overload would reach a limit incompatible with human life. Therefore we constantly rotated the descent vehicle around its axis, it achieved approximately one revolution after half a minute, what contributed (to transfer) the life-threatening ‘foot-head’ overload into the more acceptable ‘chest-spin’ overload due to the centrifugal force,” said the ballistics chief.
According to the 15th Expedition commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, “The rotation of the descent vehicle was sharp, rigid, with strong vestibular irritation, which I could feel from the left seat of the capsule in which I sat. The overload increased gradually, up to a tolerable 8.56 units. After overload at seven units we ceased to report to Earth about our health in order to concentrate on maintaining our respiration. But the crew members did not experience loss of sight and consciousness, and we understood that we just had to endure the ordeal.”
“Russia may build new shuttle spacecraft by 2015”, RIA Novosti, 29/1. Energiya’s spacecraft proposal (it has 6 projects, 2 of which it will submit to the Russian Space Agency in the near future) would likely have a lifting-body design and carry a crew of 6. More via Novosti Kosmonavtiki news №682: Sergei Krikalyov, Energiya’s deputy design project leader, is convinced that several different spacecraft designs will be required to realize Russia’s space projects. “It is not possible to create a ship which would equally be suitable for flights the Moon, Mars, and for the flights to near-Earth orbit. Therefore I do not exclude that not one manned ship will be built, but several,” emphasized the cosmonaut. He said the new ship will be constructed at the new spaceport.
Energiya chief Valerii Lopota said at the 31st Academic Readings in Cosmonautics conference that the Soyuz and Progress ships would be transferred over to digital technologies in the 2008-2009 period which would increase their reliability.