Russia sends Soyuz rescue craft to International Space Station | Space news

Soyuz MS-23 will carry Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Petalin, Sergei Prokofiev and NASA’s Frank Rubio back to Earth later this year.

Russia has sent an unmanned Soyuz spacecraft on a rescue mission to return two astronauts and a NASA astronaut whose return to Earth was interrupted when their original spacecraft was damaged by a mini-rocket while docked at the International Space Station (ISS).

The Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft successfully blasted off Friday from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, a live video feed from ISS partner NASA showed.

Although MS-23 is scheduled to dock with the ISS early Sunday morning Moscow time, it is not expected to bring home Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Petelin and Sergei Prokopyev and American astronaut Frank Rubio until later this year.

The trio reached the ISS in September 2022 aboard the MS-22 spacecraft and initially stayed for six months until the end of March. But the MS-22 began leaking coolant in December after an apparent micrometeorite punctured an external radiator.

Earlier this month, the same thing happened again, this time on a Russian cargo ship. Camera footage showed a small hole in each spacecraft.

MS-23, which took off on Friday, was scheduled for a mid-March launch with two astronauts and one astronaut from Rubio, Petalin and Prokofiev on board the space station. But without a replacement crew aboard MS-23, two Russians and an American crew member will now continue to work on the ISS until September.

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Officials had decided it was too risky to bring the trio back aboard their damaged Soyuz MS-22 next month as originally planned. Without air conditioning, room temperatures would rise during the return trip to Earth, damaging computers and other equipment and exposing suitable crew members to extreme heat.

NASA said in a statement that the damaged Soyuz MS-22 is scheduled to be removed from the ISS at the end of March and returned to Earth “for a parachute-assisted landing in Kazakhstan and post-flight analysis by Roscosmos” – Russia’s space agency.

After transporting people to the space station, the capsules would remain attached to the research lab in orbit for the duration of the journey, eventually returning their crew to Earth in case of an emergency.

In addition to the three crew members awaiting MS-23’s arrival, four more are currently on the ISS after arriving aboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule last October as part of the Crew-5 mission.

They are scheduled to be joined next week by members of the Crew-6 mission — two Americans, an Emirati and a Russian — aboard a SpaceX capsule expected to launch Monday from Florida. After a few days together, Crew-5 returns to Earth.

Space has been a rare area of ​​cooperation between Moscow and Washington since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine and following Western sanctions on Russia.

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