Russia has launched its Soyuz spacecraft, the MS-23, to the International Space Station to retrieve three astronauts from a leaky spacecraft. The Soyuz MS-23 is scheduled to dock with the ISS on February 25.
This is will the new ride for cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin, and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio for the first time in two months as their original space vehicle was damaged by a mini meteorite.
Too Risky For MS-22 to Return With Crew
Troubles initially began on December 14 after their spacecraft Soyuz MS-22 suffered a coolant leak because of a micrometeroid impact. This posed no immediate threat to the ISS or its activities, but the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos established that a new Soyuz was needed to replace.
The agency said it was too risky to bring the three back in the damaged spacecraft. With no coolant, the cabin temperature would spike during the trip back to Earth, potentially damaging computers and other equipment – exposing the suited-up crew to excessive heat.
NASA, in an official statement, said the damaged Soyuz MS-22 is scheduled to undock from the ISS in late March and return to Earth for an unscrewed parachute-assisted landing in Kazakhstan, and post-flight analysis by Roscosmos.
Full of Challenges
There were a few hurdles. The Soyuz MS-23 was scheduled to fly a normal crew replacement mission late spring. This was pushed to February 19 and elected to launch it without crew, in an effort to give three full seats for the MS-22 crew. But the schedule of launching Soyuz MS-23 was complicated by the Progress-82 freighter coolant leak at the complex on February 11. Roscosmos officials said the two coolant leaks were not related and were caused by separate micrometeroid strikes on each spacecraft
The MS-23, which took off successfully from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday, is carrying 945 pounds of supplies and a toy teddy to serve as a weightlessness indicator.
The Soyuz launch and docking will take place amid a very busy week for ISS activities. SpaceX’s Crew-6 Crew Dragon spacecraft is expected to launch four astronauts from NASA on February 27.