Russia mulls early return of space station crew following Soyuz capsule leak



Russia’s area company stated it is contemplating a “rescue” program to send an empty spacecraft to the Global Area Station (ISS) to bring dwelling 3 crew users in advance of routine, just after their Soyuz capsule sprang a coolant leak although docked to the orbiting outpost.

Roscosmos and NASA officers stated at a information meeting on Thursday they continue on to examine how the coolant line of the capsule’s exterior radiator sustained a tiny puncture very last 7 days, just as two cosmonauts ended up preparing for a program spacewalk.

No ultimate choice has been built about the exact indicates of traveling the capsule’s 3 crew members back to Earth – no matter whether by launching another Soyuz to retrieve them or by the seemingly fewer very likely solution of sending them property in the leaky capsule without having most of its coolant.

Very last week, Sergei Krikalev, Russia’s main of crewed area packages, claimed the leak could have been induced by a micrometeoroid strike. But he and his NASA counterparts have remaining open the likelihood of other culprits, these types of as a components failure or an impression by a little piece of house debris.

The Dec. 14 leak prompted mission controllers in Moscow to call off the spacewalk as a reside NASA webcast confirmed what appeared to be a flurry of snowflake-like particles spewing from the rear of the Soyuz spacecraft.

The leak lasted for hours and emptied the radiator of coolant utilized to regulate temperatures inside the crew compartment of the spacecraft.

NASA has explained that none of the ISS crew was ever in any threat from the leak.

Cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dimitri Petelin, who have been suited up for the spacewalk at the time, flew to the ISS aboard the now-crippled Soyuz MS-22 capsule together with U.S. astronaut Frank Rubio in September.

They have been originally owing to fly again dwelling on the exact same spacecraft in March, but Krikalev and NASA’s ISS application supervisor, Joel Montalbano, reported Roscosmos would return them to Earth two or a few months early if Russian area officers decide to start an vacant crew capsule for their retrieval.

Four other ISS crew users – two extra from NASA, a third Russian cosmonaut and a Japanese astronaut – rode to the ISS in October by means of a NASA-contracted SpaceX Crew Dragon and they also keep on being aboard, with their capsule parked at the station.


The leak has upended Russia’s ISS routines for the months ahead, forcing a suspension of all potential Roscosmos spacewalks as officers in Moscow shift their target to the leaky MS-22, a designated lifeboat for its three crew customers if some thing goes erroneous aboard the space station.

Two U.S. astronauts, Rubio and Josh Cassada, done a 7-hour spacewalk with out incident on Thursday to install a new roll-out photo voltaic array outdoors the station, NASA stated.

If MS-22 is deemed unsafe to carry crew members back again to Earth, yet another Soyuz capsule in line to ferry Russia’s future crew to the station in March would alternatively “be despatched up unmanned to have (a) healthful car or truck on board the station to be ready to rescue crew,” Krikalev, Roscosmos’ govt director for human spaceflight, explained to reporters.

No point out was made of quite possibly sending a spare SpaceX Dragon for crew retrieval.

Pinpointing the trigger of the leak could issue into conclusions about the ideal way to return crew customers.

The the latest Geminid meteor shower to begin with seemed to raise the odds of a micrometeoroid strike as the origin, but the leak was going through the erroneous way for that to be the scenario, Montalbano explained, even though a place rock could have arrive from yet another way.

Sending the stricken MS-22 back again to Earth unfixed with humans aboard appeared an unlikely decision specified the very important position the coolant method plays to reduce overheating of the capsule’s crew compartment, which Montalbano and Krikalev explained was now remaining vented with air stream permitted by means of an open hatch to the ISS.

NASA has formerly claimed the capsule’s temperatures continue being “inside appropriate boundaries” and that a modern test of the capsule’s thrusters was carried out without a hitch. But Krikalev included that the temperature would increase speedily if the hatch to the station were closed.

The ISS, a science laboratory spanning the length of a football field, orbits about 250 miles (400 km) over the Earth and has been constantly occupied for two decades, managed by a U.S.-Russian-led partnership that also contains Canada, Japan and 11 European countries.

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