The ballistic re-entry and off-target landing of the Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft returning three crew from the International Space Station (ISS) was caused by a faulty gyroscope switch. Re-entry switched from the normal pattern to a ballistic path 183s after separation from the ISS.

The mission control centre had communications with the crew for 30s after this, but no-one reported the change of re-entry mode, making it impossible to order recovery aircraft to fly into the new landing zone, 400km (215nm) off target. The crew was chided for this oversight, and for turning on the Kurs approach control system.

The computer system on the TMA-3 craft due to be launched in October is being checked, but the re-entry system on TMA-2 docked to the ISS will not be looked at, say Russian space officials.

Source: Flight International