Russia will send rockets from ISS to rescue crew

Russia said on Wednesday it will send a rescue capsule next month for the three crew members of the International Space Station after a meteorite damaged the spacecraft that was supposed to return them to Earth.

The Russian space agency Roscosmos made the announcement after examining the airworthiness of the Soyuz MS-22 crew capsule docked to the ISS, which caused a leak in December.

Roscosmos on Wednesday said the spacecraft set to return Russian cosmonauts Sergei Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio to Earth was damaged by a small meteorite impact.

Roscosmos said it denied that the cause of the leak was a technical issue.

The space capsules will now have to return uncrewed, and a new spacecraft, the Soyuz MS-23, will be sent to the ISS on February 20 to retrieve the trio.

“The ‘Soyuz MS-22’ should land on Earth without a crew,” Roscosmos explained, announcing a state commission discussing how to address the issue. said.

There are currently seven people on the ISS. Considering that the MS-22 rocket is no longer viable, this means that there is only one “lifeboat” that can carry four people when the ISS needs to be evacuated.

Roscosmos said such a scenario would be handled separately.

“The possibility of using the Soyuz MS-22 to rescue the crew, in case of particularly critical situations on the ISS, will be determined by a separate decision of the state commission,” Roscosmos said.

MS-22 flew NASA astronaut Rubio to the ISS with Russian Petelin and Prokopyev in September.

Roscosmos said their mission has been extended due to damage to the space capsule and they will now return to Earth with MS-23, but did not provide further details. They would return home in March.

On December 14, the vehicle began spraying coolant into space with dramatic NASA TV footage showing white particles resembling snowflakes flowing from behind.

Roscosmos and NASA initially said that although the leak caused temperature rises, it did not pose any danger to those on board.

Due to the leak, Russian cosmonauts had to postpone their spacewalk.

– ‘Optimal solution’ –

Sending a rescue ship to pick up the three crew members means the other three astronauts won’t go to space as planned.

Initially, Soyuz MS-23 was expected to take to the ISS Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub and NASA’s Loral O’Hara on March 16.

Space expert Vitaly Egorov praised the Roscosmos decision.

“This is the optimal solution for human safety and minimizing damage to the space program,” he said on Facebook.

Space has remained a rare field of cooperation between Moscow and Washington since the beginning of the Russian offensive in Ukraine and subsequent Western sanctions against Russia.

In December, Yuri Borisov, head of the Russian space agency, praised Russia-US cooperation on the ISS following the leak.

NASA, which monitors the Soyuz systems closely, will brief reporters later on Wednesday.

“NASA and Roscosmos are completing their work together to develop an action plan following the analysis,” the US space agency said.

The ISS was launched in 1998, at a time when US-Russian cooperation increased following the Space Race rivalry during the Cold War.

Russia has been using aging but reliable Soyuz capsules since the 1960s to transport astronauts into space.


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