Fate of Russia’s Damaged Soyuz Spacecraft to Be Decided in January

A view of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft docked to the Russian Rassvet module.

A view of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft docked to the Russian Rassvet module.
Photo: NASA

Roscosmos says it wants extra time to judge the flight worthiness of its broken Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft, leaving the security of three ISS crew members doubtful.

According to a Roscosmos assertion, investigators “will make organizational decisions about future actions of ground specialists and the crew of the ISS Russian segment, as well as on possible changes in the station’s flight program in January 2023 ” as reported by state-run TASS information company. The Russian house company had initially hoped to announce a choice on December 27. Two working teams are presently evaluating the spacecraft and the scenario, with no particular date given for the January determination.

The incident occurred on December 15, when sensors registered a strain drop within the Soyuz MS-22’s exterior cooling loop positioned on the spacecraft’s service module. Cameras confirmed coolant spewing out from the capsule’s radiator, prompting the cancellation of a deliberate spacewalk. Roscosmos and NASA each said that the leak poses no threat to the crew or the International Space Station. The subsequent discovery of a 0.8-millimeter-wide gap led to hypothesis that the spacecraft’s radiator was struck by an errant particle.

Coolant leaking uncontrollably into space on December 15.

Coolant leaking uncontrollably into house on December 15.
Screenshot: NASA TV

The Soyuz’s thrusters labored effective throughout subsequent assessments, however questions stay about temperature regulation inside the crew compartment and whether or not or not the capsule can safely carry three crew members, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, again dwelling. The remaining 4 crew members are already accounted for, having seats aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon parked exterior.

That the choice on the craft’s flight worthiness has been pushed to January isn’t essentially problematic. Roscosmos is already within the midst of making ready the alternative Soyuz MS-23 for launch, with Sergei Krikalev, head of Roscosmos’s human spaceflight program, telling reporters on December 23 that the mission may very well be expedited by a number of weeks and launched in mid-February. Should the MS-22 be deemed unfit for human use, an uncrewed MS-23 would launch to the ISS and dock in autonomous mode. As for the MS-22, it might be despatched again to Earth with out passengers and recovered for inspections. That stated, the capsule’s broken service module is not going to return to Earth, because it will get discarded previous to re-entry.

We could by no means know the true reason for the Soyuz leak, however Roscosmos appears sure that the opening was created by a overseas object of some kind, both a tiny meteor or house particles. The house company, utilizing cameras fitted to a robotic arm, carried out additional inspections on December 18, main it to conclude that “the temperature control system radiator was ruptured because of external mechanical damage,” in keeping with Roscosmos and as TASS reported on December 27. The Russian house company is successfully ruling out the likelihood {that a} pre-manufactured radiator vent gap was the supply of the leak, as NASA suggested in a press release.

Should a significant emergency happen between now and the arrival of the alternative Soyuz, Rubio, Prokopyev, and Petelin would haven’t any alternative however to make use of the broken MS-22 as a lifeboat and hope for the perfect. And in actual fact, Roscosmos has offered the trio with a modified set of directions to that impact.

A full-scale evacuation of the ISS has by no means occurred, however such a factor can by no means be dominated out, whether or not on account of threatening house junk or some kind of catastrophic malfunction. Alarmingly, a bit of house junk flew close to the house station final week, prompting a particles avoidance maneuver—and sure some very elevated coronary heart charges.

Related: Astronauts Forced to Take Shelter as Debris Cloud Threatens Space Station

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