Russia to ship Soyuz spacecraft to switch broken one at ISS

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Russia plans to ship a backup spacecraft to the Worldwide House Station to retrieve three crew members whose Soyuz capsule was broken, presumably by a micrometeoroid, Russia and NASA officers mentioned Wednesday.

The substitute craft, which can have no crew aboard, is to be launched Feb. 20 to select up Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin in addition to NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, who all arrived on the station in September.

On Dec. 14, because the cosmonauts had been getting ready to depart the station’s airlock to carry out a spacewalk, floor controllers observed a leak of coolant spraying uncontrollably into house. Roscosmos, the Russian house company, instantly canceled the spacewalk and decided that the leak was coming from a tiny gap in an exterior cooling line, about one millimeter large. The coolant is used to maintain the capsule at a snug temperature.

Since then, Roscosmos, in cooperation with NASA, had been making an attempt to find out whether or not the spacecraft was match to fly the crew residence or if the company wanted to ship up a rescue craft. The groups decided that with out the coolant, temperatures contained in the spacecraft may exceed 100 levels Fahrenheit. The excessive temperature mixed with humidity may have an effect on the spacecraft’s computing techniques and likewise make the environment uncomfortable for the crew.

After the brand new spacecraft arrives on the station, Roscosmos plans to fly, with out crew members, the broken Soyuz again to Earth, the place it is going to be retrieved and inspected.

NASA and Roscosmos have mentioned that the crew members on the station aren’t at risk and that they continued to conduct analysis and science experiments, together with rising tomatoes, whereas crews on the bottom developed an answer for the issue. Seven persons are aboard the station: the three who flew on the Soyuz craft in September and 4 who flew to the station in October on SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, which is also docked on the station.

In a name with reporters Wednesday, NASA’s house station program supervisor, Joel Montalbano, sought to downplay the severity of the difficulty, saying there’s “no quick want for the crew to come back residence right now.”

Talking from Moscow, the place he was concerned in conferences with Roscosmos officers, Montalbano mentioned NASA was not “calling it a rescue Soyuz. … I’m calling it a substitute Soyuz.”

Sergei Krikalev, govt director of Roscosmos’s human spaceflight packages, mentioned the businesses put together for this type of state of affairs, figuring out they’re extraordinarily uncommon. “It is a state of affairs we envision, and now we’re principally following the process,” he mentioned.

Krikalev mentioned it was “the primary time I bear in mind” having to ship a substitute spacecraft to the station. “We’ve by no means had the actual want to do that” he mentioned.

NASA and Roscosmos are inspecting choices within the occasion of an emergency that may require the crews to evacuate the station earlier than the rescue Soyuz arrives. The Soyuz crew may nonetheless board its spacecraft and use it as a lifeboat, with out returning to Earth’s environment. It additionally is perhaps potential to suit a further crew member within the SpaceX Dragon capsule.

The plan now would contain crews going “in your respective autos right now,” Montalbano mentioned. “However, in parallel, now we have been speaking to SpaceX and taking a look at an possibility of what we will do with the SpaceX automobile.”

He mentioned NASA officers concurred with Roscosmos’s view that the harm to the Soyuz automobile docked on the house station was most likely attributable to a micrometeoroid. He mentioned there was nothing irregular “within the manufacturing of this automobile.” Earth’s orbit additionally has been flooded with particles from a Russian missile strike on a useless satellite tv for pc in 2021 that, on the time, required crews on the house station to shelter of their spacecraft.

General, Montalbano mentioned, NASA and Roscosmos “have labored extraordinarily effectively collectively, each the technical groups and the administration staff. It’s a true testomony to the partnership.”

With a recent Soyuz on the station, Krikalev mentioned, the three-member crew’s mission can be prolonged by quite a few months. It’s not clear, although, how the launch of the substitute automobile would have an effect on NASA’s schedule. For now, SpaceX is predicted to fly one other crew of astronauts to the station in February. “We’ll want a pair extra weeks earlier than we’re able to outline a bunch of latest launch dates,” Montalbano mentioned.

Crew members on the house station had been in good spirits and persevering with to go about their enterprise, he mentioned. However he added: “I’ll should fly some extra ice cream as much as reward them.”

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