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List of spaceflight-related accidents and incidents

Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrates 73 seconds after its 1986 launch, due to hot gases escaping through a damaged seal in an SRB leading to structural failure of the external tank. The accident resulted in the death of all seven crew members.

This article lists verifiable spaceflight-related accidents and incidents resulting in fatality or near-fatality during flight or training for manned space missions, and testing, assembly, preparation or flight of manned and unmanned spacecraft. Not included are accidents or incidents associated with intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests, unmanned space flights not resulting in fatality or serious injury, or Soviet or German rocket-powered aircraft projects of World War II. Also not included are alleged unreported Soviet space accidents, which are considered fringe theories by a majority of historians.

There have been a number of such incidents in the history of spaceflight, in particular 18 astronaut and cosmonaut fatalities, as of 2013.[1][2] There have been some astronaut fatalities during training for space missions, such as the Apollo 1 launch pad fire which killed all three crew members. There have also been some non-astronaut fatalities during spaceflight-related activities.


  • Astronaut fatalities 1
    • Astronaut fatalities during spaceflight 1.1
    • Astronaut fatalities during spaceflight training 1.2
  • Non-fatal incidents during spaceflight 2
  • Non-fatal incidents during training 3
  • Non-astronaut fatalities 4
    • Fatalities caused by rocket explosions 4.1
    • Other non-astronaut fatalities 4.2
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Astronaut fatalities

(In the statistics below, "astronaut" is applied to all space travellers to avoid the use of "astronaut/cosmonaut".)

Astronaut fatalities during spaceflight

The history of space exploration has had a number of incidents that resulted in the deaths of the astronauts during a space mission. As of 2013, in-flight accidents have killed 18 astronauts, in four separate incidents.[2]

NASA astronauts who have lost their lives in the line of duty are memorialized at the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Merritt Island, Florida. Cosmonauts who have died in the line of duty under the auspices of the Soviet Union were generally honored by burial at the Kremlin Wall Necropolis in Moscow. It is unknown whether this remains tradition for Russia, since the Kremlin Wall Necropolis was largely a Communist honor and no cosmonauts have died in action since the Soviet Union broke up.

There have been four fatal in-flight accidents on missions which were considered spaceflights under the internationally accepted definition of the term, plus one on the ground during rehearsal of a planned flight. In each case all crew were killed. To date, no individual member of a multi-member crew has died during a mission or rehearsal.

Incident Date Mission Fatalities Description
Parachute failure 24 April 1967 Soyuz 1  Vladimir Komarov The one-day mission had been plagued by a series of mishaps with the new spacecraft type, culminating with its parachute not opening properly after atmospheric reentry. Komarov was killed when the capsule hit the ground at high speed.[3]

The Soyuz 1 crash site coordinates are , 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) west of Karabutak, Province of Orenburg in the Russian Federation, about 275 kilometres (171 mi) east-southeast of Orenburg. In a small park on the side of the road is a memorial monument: a black column with a bust of Komarov at the top.[4][5][6]

Decompression 30 June 1971 Soyuz 11 Georgi Dobrovolski
 Viktor Patsayev
 Vladislav Volkov
The crew of Soyuz 11 were killed after undocking from space station Salyut 1 after a three-week stay. A cabin vent valve accidentally opened at service module separation. The recovery team found the crew dead. These are the only fatalities in space (above 100 kilometres (62 mi)) thus far.[7][8]

The Soyuz 11 landing coordinates are , 90 kilometres (56 mi) southwest of Karazhal, Karagandy, Kazakhstan, and about 550 kilometres (340 mi) northeast of Baikonur, in open flat country far from any populated area. In a small circular fenced area at the site is a memorial monument in the form of a three-sided metallic column. Near the top of the column on each side is the engraved image of the face of a crew member set into a stylized triangle.[9][10][11]

Vehicle disintegration during launch – Space Shuttle Challenger disaster 28 January 1986 STS-51-L  Greg Jarvis
 Christa McAuliffe
 Ronald McNair
 Ellison Onizuka
 Judith Resnik
 Michael J. Smith
 Dick Scobee
First U.S. in-flight fatalities. The Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed 73 seconds after lift-off on STS-51-L. The investigation found that a faulty O-ring seal allowed hot gases from the shuttle solid rocket booster (SRB) to impinge on the external propellant tank and booster strut. The strut and aft end of the tank failed, allowing the top of the SRB to rotate into the top of the tank. Challenger was thrown sideways into the Mach 1.8 windstream and broke up with the loss of all seven crew members. NASA investigators determined they may have survived the spacecraft disintegration, possibly unconscious from hypoxia; some tried to activate their emergency oxygen. Any survivors of the breakup were killed, however, when the largely intact cockpit hit the water at 320 km/h (200 mph).[12]

The vehicle impacted the water about 32 km (20 miles) east of Cape Canaveral. "Tracking reported that the vehicle had exploded and impacted the water in an area approximately located at 28.64 degrees north, 80.28 degrees west", Mission Control, Houston.[13] About half of the vehicle's remains were never recovered, and fragments still wash ashore occasionally on the coast of Brevard County, Florida.

Vehicle disintegration on re-entry – Space Shuttle Columbia disaster 1 February 2003 STS-107  Rick D. Husband
 William McCool
 Michael P. Anderson
 David M. Brown
 Kalpana Chawla
 Laurel B. Clark
 Ilan Ramon
The Space Shuttle Columbia was lost as it returned from a two-week mission, STS-107. Damage to the shuttle's thermal protection system (TPS) led to structural failure of the shuttle's left wing and the spacecraft ultimately broke apart. Investigation revealed damage to the reinforced carbon-carbon leading edge wing panel resulted from the impact of a piece of foam insulation that broke away from the external tank during the launch.[14]

The vehicle broke up over the southwestern United States and fell in fragments over eastern Texas and central Louisiana.

There has also been an accident on a flight that was considered a spaceflight by those involved but not under the internationally accepted definition:
Incident Date Mission Fatalities Description
Control failure 15 November 1967 X-15 Flight 3-65-97  Michael J. Adams During X-15 Flight 191, Adams' seventh flight, the plane had an electrical problem followed by control problems at the apogee of its flight. The pilot may also have become disoriented. During reentry from a 266,000 ft (50.4 mile, 81.1 km) apogee, the X-15 yawed and went into a spin at Mach 5. The pilot recovered, but went into a Mach 4.7 inverted dive. Excessive loading led to structural breakup at about 65,000 feet (19.8 km).[15] Adams was posthumously awarded astronaut wings as his flight had passed an altitude of 50 miles (80.5 km), the U.S. definition of space.[16][17]

Astronaut fatalities during spaceflight training

In addition to accidents during spaceflights, 11 astronauts have died during training.

Incident Date Mission Fatalities Description
Fire in altitude chamber 23 March 1961 Valentin Bondarenko First space-related fatality. During a 15-day endurance experiment in a low-pressure altitude chamber with at least 50% oxygen atmosphere, Vostok cosmonaut trainee Bondarenko dropped an alcohol-soaked cloth onto an electric hotplate. He suffered third-degree burns over most of his body and face, and died of his burns shortly after being hospitalized.[18]
Training jet crash 31 October 1964 Theodore Freeman Freeman was in a T-38 jet trainer on landing approach to Ellington AFB near Houston, TX, when a goose smashed into the left side of the cockpit canopy. Shards of Plexiglas entered the engine intake and caused both engines to flame out. Freeman ejected too close to the ground for his parachute to open properly.[19][20]
Training jet crash 28 February 1966 Gemini 9 Elliot See
Charles Bassett
See and Bassett attempted to land their T-38 at Lambert Field in St. Louis, Missouri in bad weather, and crashed into the adjacent McDonnell Aircraft factory, where they were going for simulator training.[21][22]
Fire during spacecraft test 27 January 1967 Apollo 1 Virgil "Gus" Grissom
Edward H. White
Roger Chaffee
An electrical fire in the cabin, spread quickly in a pure oxygen atmosphere, claimed the lives of all three Apollo 1 crew members during a "plugs-out" test in preparation for their planned February 21 launch.[23]
Training jet crash 5 October 1967 Clifton C. Williams Williams, flying alone in a T-38 jet from Cape Kennedy, Florida to Houston, Texas, crashed due to an aileron control mechanical failure, about 15 miles (24 km) north of Tallahassee, Florida.[24] Williams ejected too low for the parachute to open properly.[25]
Training jet crash 8 December 1967 Robert Lawrence The first US African-American astronaut, selected for the Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory program, was killed when his F-104 Starfighter jet crashed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, while practicing a series of high speed, quick descent landings as copilot with Major Harvey Royer. Both crewmen ejected; Royer survived with injuries, but Lawrence was found in his ejection seat, the parachute unopened.[26][27]
Training jet crash 27 March 1968 Soyuz 3 Yuri Gagarin The first human in space was killed with flight instructor Vladimir Seryogin when their MiG-15UTI jet trainer crashed.[28] The likely cause was determined to be avoidance of a weather balloon.[29]
Drowned during water recovery training 11 July 1993 Sergei Vozovikov Sergei Yuriyevich Vozovikov was a member of the Soviet Air Force Cosmonaut Training Group 11. His Cosmonaut training was from 1 October 1991 to 6 March 1992. He drowned 11 July 1993 during water recovery training in the Black Sea, near Anapa, Russia.[30][31]

Non-fatal incidents during spaceflight

Apart from actual disasters, a number of missions resulted in some very near misses and also some training accidents that nearly resulted in deaths. In-flight near misses have included various reentry mishaps (in particular on Soyuz 5), the sinking of the Mercury 4 capsule, and the Voskhod 2 crew spending a night in dense forest surrounded by wolves.

  • 12 April 1961: separation failure: During the flight of Vostok 1, after retrofire, the Vostok service module unexpectedly remained attached to the reentry module by a bundle of wires. The two halves of the craft were supposed to separate ten seconds after retrofire. But they did not separate until 10 minutes after retrofire, when the wire bundle finally burned through. The spacecraft had gone through wild gyrations at the beginning of reentry, before the wires burned through and the reentry module settled into the proper reentry attitude.[32]
  • 21 July 1961: landing capsule sank in water: After Liberty Bell 7 splashed down in the Atlantic, the hatch malfunctioned and blew, filling the capsule with water and almost drowning Gus Grissom, who managed to escape before it sank. Grissom then had to deal with a spacesuit that was rapidly filling with water, but managed to get into the helicopter's retrieval collar and was lifted to safety.[33] The spacecraft was recovered in 1999, having settled 300 nmi (560 km; 350 mi) southeast of Cape Canaveral in 15,000 ft (4,600 m) of seawater. An unexploded SOFAR bomb designed for sound fixing and ranging in case the craft sank had failed, and had to be dealt with when it was recovered in from the ocean floor in 1999.[34]
  • 18 March 1965: spacesuit or airlock design fault: Voskhod 2 featured the world's first spacewalk, by Alexei Leonov. After his twelve minutes outside, Leonov's spacesuit had inflated in the vacuum to the point where he could not reenter the airlock. He opened a valve to allow some of the suit's pressure to bleed off, and was barely able to get back inside the capsule after suffering side effects of the bends. Because the spacecraft was so cramped, the crew could not keep to their reentry schedule and landed 386 km off course in deep forest. They had to spend a night in their capsule due to the danger of bears and wolves.
  • 12 December 1965: engine shutdown at launch: Gemini 6A the first on-pad shutdown in the US Manned Program. Gemini 7 orbiting 185 miles directly over Missile Row witnessed the event and reported they could clearly see the momentary exhaust plume before shutdown.[35]
  • 17 March 1966: equipment failure: Gemini 8: A maneuvering thruster refused to shut down and put their capsule into an uncontrolled spin.[36]
  • 18 January 1969: separation failure: Soyuz 5 had a harrowing reentry and landing when the capsule's service module initially refused to separate, causing the spacecraft to begin reentry faced the wrong way. The service module broke away before the capsule would have been destroyed, and so it made a rough but survivable landing far off course in the Ural mountains.
  • 1969 Nov 14: Struck twice by lightning during launch: Astronauts Pete Conrad, Alan Bean, and Dick Gordon experienced two lightning strikes during the launch of Apollo 12. The first strike, at 36 seconds after liftoff, knocked the three fuel cells offline and the craft switched to battery power automatically. The second strike, at 52 seconds after liftoff, knocked the onboard guidance platform offline. Four temperature sensors on the outside of the Lunar Module were burnt out and four measuring devices in the reaction control system failed temporarily. Fuel cell power was restored about four minutes later. The astronauts spent additional time in earth orbit to make sure the spacecraft was functional before firing their S-IVB third stage engine and departing for the moon.[37][38]
  • 1969 Nov 24: Struck by camera during splashdown: Astronaut Alan Bean was struck above the right eyebrow by a 16mm movie camera when the Apollo 12 spacecraft splashed down in the ocean. The camera broke free from its stowage place. Bean suffered a concussion, and a 1.25 cm cut above the eyebrow that required stitches.[39]
  • 1970 Apr 11: Premature engine shutdown: During the launch of Apollo 13, its Saturn V second stage suffered a premature shut down on one of its five engines. The center engine shut down two minutes early. The remaining engines on the second and third stages were burned a total of 34 seconds longer. It was later determined that the shut down was caused by pogo oscillation of the engine. Had the pogo oscillation continued, it could have torn the Saturn V apart.[40][41][42]
  • 13 April 1970: equipment failure: In the most celebrated "near miss," the Apollo 13 crew came home safely after a violent rupture of a liquid oxygen tank[43] deprived the Service Module of its ability to produce electrical power, crippling their spacecraft en route to the moon. They survived the loss of use of their command ship by relying on the Lunar Module as a "life boat" to provide life support and power for the trip home.[44]
  • 1971 Aug 7: One of three main parachutes failed: During descent, the three main parachutes of Apollo 15 opened successfully. However, when the remaining reaction control system fuel was jettisoned, one parachute was damaged by the discarded fuel causing it to collapse. The Apollo 15 and its crew still splashed down safely, at a slightly higher than normal velocity, on the two remaining main parachutes. If a second parachute had failed, the spacecraft would probably have been crushed on impact with the ocean, according to a NASA official.[45]
  • 5 April 1975: separation failure: The Soyuz 18a mission nearly ended in disaster when the rocket suffered a second-stage separation failure during launch. This also interrupted the craft's attitude, causing the vehicle to accelerate towards the Earth and triggering an emergency reentry sequence. Due to the downward acceleration, the crew experienced an acceleration of 21.3 g rather than the nominal 15 g for an abort. Upon landing, the vehicle rolled down a hill and stopped just short of a high cliff. The crew survived, but Lazarev, the mission commander, suffered internal injuries due to the severe G-forces and was never able to fly again.
  • 24 July 1975: gas poisoning on board: During final descent and parachute deployment for the Apollo Soyuz Test Project Command Module, the U.S. crew were exposed to 300 µL/L of toxic nitrogen tetroxide gas (Reaction Control System oxidizer) venting from the spacecraft and reentering a cabin air intake. A switch was left in the wrong position. 400µL/L is fatal. Vance Brand's lost consciousness for a short time. The crew members suffered from burning sensations of their eyes, faces, noses, throats and lungs. Thomas Stafford quickly broke out emergency oxygen masks and put one on Brand and gave one to Deke Slayton. The crew were exposed to the toxic gas from 24,000 ft (7.3 km) down to landing. About an hour after landing the crew developed chemical-induced pneumonia and their lungs had edema. They experienced shortness of breath and were hospitalized in Hawaii. The crew spent two weeks in the hospital. By July 30, their chest X-rays appeared to return to normal except for Slayton; he was diagnosed with a benign lesion unrelated to the gas exposure which was later removed.[46]
  • 16 October 1976: landing capsule sank in water: The Soyuz 23 capsule broke through the surface of a frozen lake and was dragged underwater by its parachute. The crew was saved after a very difficult rescue operation.[47]
  • 12 April 1979: engine malfunction: Georgi Ivanov, suffered a steep ballistic re-entry, but were safely recovered. The original intention of the mission had been to visit the orbiting crew for about a week and leave a fresh vehicle for the station crew to return to earth in. The mission failure meant that the orbiting Salyut 6 crew lacked a reliable return vehicle as their Soyuz had the same suspect engine as Soyuz 33. A subsequent manned flight was canceled and a vacant craft with a redesigned engine was sent for the crew to use.
  • 1981 Apr 12: STS-1: unexpectedly high SRB ignition shock wave overpressure reached design limits of orbiter structure: During the launch of STS-1, the Solid Rocket Booster ignition shock wave overpressure was four times greater than expected (2.0 psi measured vs 0.5 psi predicted). Some of the aft structures on Space Shuttle Columbia reached their design limits (2.0 psi) from the overpressure. The overpressure bent four struts that supported two RCS fuel tanks in the nose of Columbia and the orbiter's locked body flap was pushed up and down 6 inches by the shock wave. John Young and Robert Crippen in the crew cabin received a 3 g jolt from the shock wave. An improved water spray shock wave damping system had to be installed on the launch pad prior to the STS-2 launch.[48][49][50][51]
  • 26 September 1983: fire in launch vehicle: A fuel spillage before the planned liftoff caused Soyuz T-10-1 to be engulfed in flames. The crew was narrowly saved by the activation of their launch escape system, with the rocket exploding two seconds later.
  • 1983 Dec 8: leaked hydrazine fuel fire and explosion: In the last two minutes of the STS-9 mission, during Space Shuttle Columbia's final approach to the Edwards AFB runway, hydrazine fuel leaked onto hot surfaces of two of the three onboard auxiliary power units (APU) in the aft compartment of the shuttle and caught fire. About 15 minutes after landing, hydrazine fuel trapped in the APU control valves exploded, destroying the valves in both APUs. The fire also damaged nearby wiring. The fire stopped when the supply of leaked fuel was exhausted. All of this was discovered the next day when technicians removed an access panel and discovered the area blackened and scorched. It is believed that hydrazine leaked in orbit and froze, stopping the leak. After returning, the leak restarted and ignited when combined with oxygen from the atmosphere. There were no injuries during the incident.[52][53]
  • 29 July 1985: STS-51-F: Space Shuttle in-flight engine failure: Five minutes, 45 seconds into ascent, one of three main engines aboard Challenger shut down prematurely due to a spurious high temperature reading. At about the same time, a second main engine almost shut down from a similar problem, but this was observed and inhibited by a fast acting flight controller. The failed SSME resulted in an Abort To Orbit (ATO) trajectory, whereby the shuttle achieves a lower than planned orbital altitude. Had the second engine failed within about 20 seconds of the first, a Transatlantic Landing (TAL) abort might have been necessary. No bailout option existed until after mission STS-51-L, the Challenger disaster. But even with that option, a bailout (a "contingency abort") would never be considered when an "intact abort" option exists, and after five minutes of normal flight it would always exist unless a serious flight control failure or some other major problem beyond engine shutdown occurred.[54][55]
  • 6 September 1988: sensor failure: At the end of Mir EP-3, Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Lyakhov and Afghan cosmonaut Abdul Ahad Mohmand undocked from Mir in the spacecraft Soyuz TM-5. During descent they suffered a computer software problem combined with a sensor problem. The deorbit engine on the TM-5 spacecraft which was to propel them into atmospheric reentry, did not behave as expected. During an attempted burn, the computer shut off the engines prematurely, believing the spacecraft was out of alignment.[56] Lyakhov determined that they were not, in fact, out of alignment, and asserted that the problem was caused by conflicting signals picked up by the alignment sensors caused by solar glare.[56] With the problem apparently solved, two orbits later he restarted to deorbit engines. But the engines shut off again. The flight director decided that they would have to remain in orbit an extra day (a full revolution of the Earth), so they could determine what the problem was. During this time it was realised that during the second attempted engine burn, the computer had tried to execute the program which was used to dock with Mir several months earlier during EP-2.[56] After reprogramming the computer, the next attempt was successful, and the crew safely landed on 7 September.[57]
  • 6 December 1988: STS-27: thermal tile damage: Space Shuttle Atlantis' Thermal Protection System tiles sustained unusually severe damage during this flight. Ablative insulating material from the right-hand solid rocket booster nose cap had hit the orbiter about 85 seconds into the flight, as seen in footage of the ascent. The crew made an inspection of the shuttle's impacted starboard side using the shuttle's Canadarm robot arm, but the limited resolution and range of the cameras made it impossible to determine the full extent of the tile damage. Following reentry, more than 700 tiles were found to be damaged including one that was missing entirely. STS-27 was the most heavily damaged shuttle to return to earth safely.
  • 8 April 1991: STS-37: spacesuit puncture: During an extravehicular activity on STS-37, a small rod (palm bar) in a glove of EV2 astronaut Jay Apt's extravehicular mobility unit punctured the suit. Somehow, the astronaut's hand conformed to the puncture and sealed it, preventing any detectable depressurization. During post-flight debriefings, Apt said after the second EVA, when he removed the gloves, his right hand index finger had an abrasion behind the knuckle. A postflight inspection of the right hand glove found the palm bar of the glove penetrating a restraint and glove bladder into the index finger side of the glove. NASA found air leakage with the bar in place was 3.8 sccm vs a specification of 8.0 sccm. They said if the bar had come out of the hole, the leak still would not have been great enough to activate the secondary oxygen pack. The suit would, however, have shown a high oxygen rate indication.[58]
  • 1993 Sep 12: STS-51: explosive release device punctures cargo bay bulkhead: Aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, during the STS-51 mission, while releasing the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite from the payload bay, both the primary and backup explosive release devices detonated. Only the primary device was supposed to have detonated. Large metal bands holding the satellite in place were ripped away, causing flying debris. The debris punctured the orbiter's payload bay bulkhead leading to the main engine compartment, damaging wiring trays and payload bay thermal insulation blankets. The puncture in the bulkhead was 3 mm by 13 mm in size. The crew was uninjured and the damage was not great enough to endanger the shuttle. The satellite was undamaged.[59]
  • 18 May 1995: eye injury from Mir exercise equipment: While exercising on the Mir EO-18/NASA 1/Soyuz TM-21 mission, astronaut Norman E. Thagard suffered an eye injury. He was using an exercise device, doing deep knee bends, with elastic straps. One of the straps slipped off of his foot, flew up, and hit him in the eye. Later, even a small amount of light caused pain in his eye. He said using the eye was, "like looking at the world through gauze." An ophthalmologist at Mission Control-Moscow prescribed steroid drops and the eye healed.[60]
  • 23 February 1997: fire on board: There was a fire on board the Mir space station when a lithium perchlorate canister used to generate oxygen leaked. The fire was extinguished after about 90 seconds, but smoke did not clear for several minutes.
  • 25 June 1997: collision in space: At Mir, during a re-docking test with the Progress M-34 cargo freighter, the Progress freighter collided with the Spektr module and solar arrays of the Mir space station. This damaged the solar arrays and the collision punctured a hole in the Spektr module and the space station began depressurizing. The onboard crew of two Russians and one visiting NASA astronaut were able to close off the Spektr module from the rest of Mir after quickly cutting cables and hoses blocking the hatch closure.
  • 23 July 1999: STS-93: main engine electrical short and hydrogen leak: Five seconds after liftoff, an electrical short knocked out controllers for two shuttle main engines. The engines automatically switched to their backup controllers. Had a further short shut down two engines, Columbia would have ditched in the ocean, although the crew could have possibly bailed out. Concurrently a pin came loose inside one engine and ruptured a cooling line, allowing a hydrogen fuel leak. This caused premature fuel exhaustion, but the vehicle safely achieved a slightly lower orbit. Had the failure propagated further, a risky transatlantic or RTLS abort would have been required.
  • 2001 Feb 10: STS-98 / ISS - toxic ammonia leak during EVA: During EVA 1 on the STS-98 mission, NASA astronauts Robert L. Curbeam and Thomas D. Jones were connecting cooling lines on the International Space Station while working to install the Destiny Laboratory Module. A defective quick-disconnect valve allowed 5% of the ammonia cooling supply to escape into space. The escaping ammonia froze on the spacesuit of astronaut Curbeam as he struggled to close the valve. His helmet and suit were coated in toxic ammonia crystals an inch thick. Mission Control instructed Curbeam to remain outside for an entire orbit to allow the Sun to evaporate the frozen ammonia from his spacesuit. When they returned to the airlock, the astronauts pressurized, vented and then repressurized the air lock to purge any remaining toxic ammonia. After they removed their spacesuits, the crew wore oxygen masks for another 20 minutes to allow life-support systems in the airlock to further filter the air. No injuries resulted from the incident.[61]
  • 3 May 2003: ballistic reentry, injured shoulder: The Soyuz TMA-1 capsule had a malfunction during its return to Earth from the ISS Expedition 6 mission and performed a ballistic reentry. The crew was subjected to about 8 to 9 G's during reentry. The capsule landed 500 km from the intended landing target. In addition, after landing the capsule was dragged about 15 meters by its parachute and ended up on its side in a hard landing. Astronaut Don Pettit injured his shoulder and was placed on a stretcher in a rescue helicopter and did not take part in post-landing ceremonies.[62][63][64]
  • 2004 Sep 29: 29 unplanned rolls during ascent: While piloting SpaceShipOne on suborbital flight 16P, the first of two flights that won the X-Prize for exceeding 100 km in altitude, astronaut Mike Melvill experienced 29 unplanned rolls during and after powered ascent. The rolls began at 50 seconds into the engine burn. The burn was stopped 11 seconds early after burning a total of 76 seconds. After engine cutoff, the craft continued rolling while coasting to apogee. The roll was finally brought under control after apogee using the crafts reaction jets. SpaceShipOne landed safely and Mike Melvill was uninjured.[65][66]
  • 19 April 2008: Soyuz TMA-11 suffered a reentry mishap similar to that suffered by Soyuz 5 in 1969. The service module failed to completely separate from the reentry vehicle and caused it to face the wrong way during the early portion of aerobraking. As with Soyuz 5, the service module eventually separated and the reentry vehicle completed a rough but survivable landing. Following the Russian news agency Interfax's report, this was widely reported as life-threatening[67][68] while NASA urged caution pending an investigation of the vehicle.[69] South Korean astronaut Yi So-Yeon was hospitalized after her return to South Korea due to injuries caused by the rough return voyage in the Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft. The South Korean Science Ministry said that the astronaut had a minor injury to her neck muscles and had bruised her spinal column.[70]
  • 16 July 2013: aborted spacewalk after water leak in suit: During EVA-23 of Expedition 36 to the International Space Station, European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano reported that water was steadily leaking into his helmet. Flight controllers elected to abort the EVA immediately, and Parmitano made his way back to the Quest airlock, followed by fellow astronaut Chris Cassidy. The airlock began repressurizing after a 1 hour and 32 minute spacewalk, and by this time Parmitano was having difficulty seeing, hearing, and speaking due to the amount of water in his suit. After repressurization, Expedition 36 commander Pavel Vinogradov and crewmembers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Karen Nyberg quickly removed Parmitano's helmet and soaked up the water with towels. Despite the incident, Parmitano was reported to be in good spirits and suffered no injury. The investigation into the cause of the leak is still ongoing as of July 18.[71][72][73]

Non-fatal incidents during training

Non-astronaut fatalities

Fatalities caused by rocket explosions

Date Place Death(s) Rocket Description
1930-05-17 Berlin, Germany 1 Max Valier killed by rocket engine explosion.[74]
1931-02-02 Mount Redoria near Milan, Italy 1 A liquid fueled, 132-pound meteorological rocket, that was constructed by American physicist, Dr. Darwin Lyon, exploded during tests, killing a mechanic and injuring three others. Dr. Lyon was not present when the explosion occurred.[75]
1933-10-10 Germany 3 Explosion in rocket manufacturing room of Reinhold Tiling[76]
1934-07-16 Kummersdorf, Germany 3 Ground test engine explosion
1944? Tuchola Forest, German-occupied Poland 7 A4-rocket An A4-rocket crashes at a test launch in a trench. Several soldiers who were in the trench were killed.
1964-04-14 Cape Canaveral, USA 3 Delta rocket The third stage of a Delta rocket had just been joined to the Orbiting Solar Observatory satellite in the spin test facility building at Cape Kennedy. Eleven workers were in the room when the 205 kg of solid fuel in the third stage ignited. Sidney Dagle, 29; Lot D. Gabel, 51, and John Fassett, 30, were severely burned and later died of their injuries. Eight others were injured, but survived. The ignition was caused by a spark of static electricity.[77][78][79]
1964-05-07 Braunlage, West Germany 3 Mail rocket Mail rocket built by Gerhard Zucker exploded and debris hit crowd of spectators.[80]
1966-12-14 Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakh SSR 1 Soyuz Second unmanned Soyuz test flight. Launch escape system fired 27 minutes after an aborted launch causing a fire and subsequent explosion when pad workers had already returned to the launch pad.[81]
1973-06-26 Plesetsk Cosmodrome, USSR 9 Kosmos-3M launch vehicle Launch explosion of Kosmos-3M rocket
1980-03-18 Plesetsk Cosmodrome, USSR 48 Vostok-2M launch vehicle Explosion while fueling up a Vostok-2M rocket[82]
1990-09-07 Edwards AFB, CA United States 1 Titan 4 A Titan 4 launch vehicle solid rocket booster was being hoisted by a crane into a rocket test stand at Edwards AFB, California. The bottom section of the booster broke free, hit the ground and ignited. One person, Alan M. Quimby, 27, a civilian employee of Wyle Laboratories, was killed and 9 others were injured in the accident.[83][84]
1991-08-09 Komaki, Aichi, Japan 1 H-II launch vehicle Engineer Arihiro Kanaya, 23, was conducting a high pressure endurance test on a pipe used in the first stage rocket engine of the H-2 (H-II) launch vehicle when it exploded. The explosion caused a 14 cm thick door in the testing room to fall on Kanaya and fracture his skull, killing him. The accident happened at the Nagoya Guidance and Propulsion Systems Works Of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Komaki, Aichi, Japan.[85]
1993-02-27 Esrange, Sweden 1 Bror Thornéus, a technician from Sweden was killed when a sounding rocket ignited during testing of its ignition system at the European Sounding Rocket Range (Esrange), located outside the town of Kiruna in northern Sweden.[86] [87]
1995-01-26 Xichang, China 6+ Long March rocket Long March rocket veered off course after launch [1]
1996-02-15 Xichang, China 6-100 Long March rocket Intelsat 708 Satellite, a Long March rocket, veered off course immediately after launch, crashing in the nearby village only 22 seconds later. and destroying 80 houses. According to official Chinese reports there were 6 fatalities and 57 injuries resulting from the incident, but other accounts estimated 100 fatalities.[88]
2002-10-15 Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia 1 Soyuz-U A Soyuz-U exploded 29 seconds after launch, killing a soldier, Ivan Marchenko, and injuring 8 others. Fragments of the rocket started a forest fire nearby, and a Block D strap-on booster caused damage to the launchpad.[89]
2003-08-22 Alcântara, Brazil 21 VLS-3 Explosion of an unmanned rocket during launch preparations (see Brazilian rocket explosion)[90]
2007-07-26 Mojave Spaceport, California 3 Explosion during a test of rocket systems by Scaled Composites during a nitrous oxide injector test[91]

Other non-astronaut fatalities

Date Place Death(s) Associated Spacecraft Description
1968-05-16 Cape Canaveral, USA 1 Saturn V Pad worker William B. Bates, 46, was killed while hooking up a 20-cm high pressure water line to the mobile service structure on Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A. When he loosened the cap, which should not have been pressurized, it blew off with 180 psi pressure, striking him in the chest, killing him.[92][93]
1981-03-19 Cape Canaveral, USA 3 STS-1 Anoxia due to nitrogen atmosphere in the aft engine compartment of Columbia during preparations for STS-1. Five workers were involved in the incident and three died. John Bjornstad died at the scene. Forrest Cole and Nick Mullon died later from injuries sustained in the incident.[94][95][96][97]
1981-05-05 Cape Canaveral, USA 1 STS-2 Construction worker Anthony E. Hill, 22, fell more than 30 meters to his death from the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39B service structure. Workers were preparing LC-39B for a planned September 1981 launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia.[93]
1985-12-04 Vandenberg AFB, USA 1 Space Shuttle Carl Reich, 49, of Lompoc, CA, an iron worker who was employed by Hensel Phelps Construction of Greeley, CO, fell 18 stories to his death from the mobile service structure of the SLC-6 Space Shuttle launch complex. Mr. Reich was bolting a platform onto the structure. Workers were putting finishing touches on the Vandenberg AFB Space Shuttle launch complex.[98][99]
1988-05-04 Henderson, NV USA 2 Two workers died in the PEPCON disaster, the explosion of a factory that produced ammonium perchlorate for the solid rocket boosters of the Space Shuttle and other launchers.
1989-12-22 Cape Canaveral, USA 1 A worker refurbishing the 11th level of the Cape Canaveral, Atlas Launch Complex 36B launch tower, was killed when an air hose he was using was caught by the pad elevator. The hose wrapped around the worker and pulled him into the elevator shaft, crushing and killing him. The pad was being refurbished for commercial satellite launches by General Dynamics starting in 1990.[100]
1995-05-05 Guiana Space Centre, French Guiana 2 Anoxia; The new Ariane-5 launch area and Ariane-5 cryogenic M1 main stage were undergoing testing. Technicians Luc Celle and Jean-Claude Dhainaut died during an inspection within the umbilical mast of the launchpad. The cause of death was inhalation of air having a very low oxygen content. There was a reduced oxygen content because of a major nitrogen leak in the confined area of the umbilical mast. The nitrogen leak was caused due to a missing drainage plug in a nitrogen/iced water exchanger.[101][102]
2001-07-08 Cape Canaveral, USA 1 A worker suffered fatal injuries near Launch Complex 37 while disconnecting a coupling on a temporary pipe used to purge a liquid oxygen system. An unexpected buildup of pressure caused the coupling to break loose and the employee was struck in the head. He died a short time later.[103] This accident is also mentioned in reference article to crane accident listed below.[104]
2001-10-01 Cape Canaveral, USA 1 Crane operator Bill Brooks was killed in an industrial accident at Launch Complex 37[105]
2002-05-12 Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan 8 Workers repairing the roof of the Baikonur Cosmodrome N-1/Energia vehicle assembly building died when the roof suffered a total structural collapse. The Space Shuttle Buran was destroyed in this collapse. The roof crashed 80 meters to the ground. The bodies of 8 workers were later found in the debris.[106]
2010-05-05 Huntsville, AL, USA 2 Two workers were killed in an explosion in a solid rocket fuel reprocessing plant.[107]
2013-11-09 Plesetsk, Russia 2 Two workers killed while cleaning out a propellant tank.[108]
2014-10-31 California, United States 1 SpaceShipTwo
VSS Enterprise
One pilot killed and another injured after spacecraft disintegrated during powered test flight.[109]

See also


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Books & Journals
  • Furniss; Shayler, David; Shayler, Michael Derek (2007). Praxis Manned Spaceflight Log 1961-2006. New York: Springer.  
  • Harland, David Michael (2005). The Story of Space Station Mir. Springer-Verlag.  
  • Musgrave, Gary Eugene; Larsen, Axel; Sgobba, Tommaso (2009). Safety Design of Space Systems. Butterworth–Heinemann.  
  • Siddiqi, Asif A (2000). Challenge To Apollo: The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945-1974 — Volume 4408 of NASA-SP. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.  
Other Online Sources
  • Harwood, William (2005-05-23). "Astronaut fatalities". Retrieved 2013-03-19. 
  • Dumoulin, Jim (2000). "Mission Events Summary: Ascent Abort Modes". NSTS 1988 News Reference Manual. Washington, D.C.: NASA. 

External links

  • The Encyclopedia Astronautica
  • Manned space programs accident/incident summaries (1963 - 1969) - NASA report (PDF format)
  • The Crash Site of the X-15A-3
  • Manned space programs accident/incident summaries (1970 - 1971) - NASA report (PDF format)
  • Interactive Space Shuttle Disaster Memorial
  • Raw Video Reconstruction of Space Shuttle Columbia Re-entry and More
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