Russia may be sending a new craft to replace the leaking Soyuz capsule in the space station

Russia may be sending a new craft to replace the leaking Soyuz capsule in the space station

Russia may be sending a new craft to replace the leaking Soyuz capsule in the space station

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The Russian space agency is deciding whether to send a rescue spacecraft to the International Space Station to bring home two cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut after the Soyuz capsule that took them there suffered a massive coolant leak.

Working with their counterparts at NASA, officials at Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, are trying to determine whether the vehicle is strong enough to carry the crew home, Sergei Krikalev, the executive director of Roscosmos’ manned spaceflight programs, said at a briefing Thursday. . If not, the Russian agency would send another Soyuz spacecraft to be used on another crewed mission to retrieve the crew.

That spacecraft could be ready to soar without humans on board sometime in February, a few weeks before the crew will return in March, officials said.

The crew that would fly home on the rescue craft would include NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and a few cosmonauts, Sergei Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelinewho arrived at the station in September.

On Dec. 14, as a pair of cosmonauts were preparing to leave the station for a spacewalk, ground controllers at Roscosmos and NASA discovered a coolant leak controlled from the Soyuz capsule.

Roscosmos quickly canceled the spacewalk. And after inspecting the vehicle with the station’s robotic arm, they determined that the leak came from an external cooling line used to keep the capsule at a comfortable temperature as it transports crews through the atmosphere to the vacuum of space. .

In a statement last week, NASA said “none of the crew members aboard the station were in any danger and all were conducting normal operations throughout the day.” It added that “images and data are being analyzed by Roscosmos. The agency also closely monitors Soyuz spacecraft temperatures, which remain within acceptable limits. NASA and Roscosmos will continue to collaborate on action following the ongoing analysis.”

None of the coolant contaminates the space station, said Joel Montalbano, NASA’s space station manager, and the astronauts on the station continue to conduct science experiments, including growing tomatoes.

It is not clear what caused the leak. Montalbano said possible causes being investigated include faulty hardware on the craft or possible damage from a piece of debris or a micro-meteorite.

On Wednesday, NASA canceled a spacewalk to install an upgraded solar panel because a piece of debris was expected to come within a quarter mile of the station. Crews maneuvered the station to avoid the debris and the spacewalk was rescheduled for Thursday.



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