As we wrote some time ago, the engineers were working on a solution on how to manage the astronauts in orbit aboard the International Space Station and the return of Soyuz MS-22 damaged from a hole in the outer section. The decision would have been made during this month and now we have the first answers on how NASA And Roscosmos they will manage the situation, confirming some strategies that had already been anticipated in recent weeks.
A conference was held in the past few hours which was attended by senior executives from both space agencies. Among them were also present Joel Montalbano (ISS program manager for NASA) e Sergey Krikalev (Human Space Flight Programs executive director of Roscosmos). The two provided indications on how to allow the safe return of the astronauts who arrived on board the ISS thanks to Soyuz MS-22. Here’s what we know.
International Space Station: astronauts will return with Soyuz MS-23
During the conference it was first clarified that the hole created outside the Soyuz MS-22 and that did leak coolant was caused by a micrometeorite and not from space debris. There is currently no absolute certainty (but analyzes could be conducted after the return). The Geminids meteor shower that the Earth passes through around December 13 would also have been excluded.
What hasn’t been clarified is how much Frank Rubio (NASA), Sergey Prokopyev (Roscosmos) e Dmitry Petelin (Roscosmos) will remain on board the International Space Station. The decision will be made in the coming months. The two cosmonauts and the astronaut could return in September 2023 with the rotation “standard” of the crews or before. There Soyuz MS-22 instead it will return to Earth without a crew but with some experiments (it will therefore be used as if it were a cargo spacecraft).
Roscosmos engineers will analyze the internal temperature and collect further data regarding the damage. The February 20 should be launched Soyuz MS-23, unmanned, as previously announced. After a week or two Soyuz MS-22 will return. Montalbano (NASA) stated that it is not considered a spacecraft “rescue” but one “of replacement” with Krikalev agreeing. However, Crew-6 should not undergo changes.
In case of an emergency on the International Space Station? According to the space agencies, the Soyuz MS-22 can still be used for the return of the astronauts even if the option of using a Crew Dragon with additional crew has not been completely discarded (NASA and SpaceX are still collaborating on this scenario). Krikalev also stated that adding an outer protective layer to the Soyuz would not be possible. An applicable modification, on the other hand, would be to double the cooling circuit which currently has two pumps but a single circuit. No decision has been made in this regard.