On Thursday a rocket failed. Three humans remain on the ISS. What’s next?

A portion of the Earth's surface against the unforgiving blackness of outer space.

Enlarge / The crew aboard the International Space Station took this photo of Thursday's failed Soyuz launch. (credit: NASA)

On Thursday, a Soyuz rocket suffered a catastrophic failure at around the time the second stage began to separate from the first stage. At that moment, the spacecraft's escape system automatically fired, carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin into a ballistic return to Earth. They later landed safely in Kazakhstan.

The incident has raised a number of questions about what actually happened, what this means for the International Space Station going forward, and what this means for the commercial crew program. With this post, we're going to try and answer some of those questions based upon a NASA briefing that Ars attended in Houston as well as discussions with several officials including former astronauts and aerospace engineers.

What happened to the rocket?

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