As we know, starting from December of last year and in the following weeks, two Russian spaceships (one for the transport of crews and one cargo) have suffered damage probably due to impacts with micrometeorites while they were docked at International Space Station. If Progress MS-21 was deorbited after conducting some external photographic analysis, the Soyuz MS-22 which carried Frank Rubio, Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin will return in March but without crew.
The two cosmonauts and the astronaut will instead return, as previously foreseen, with the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft which is docked at ISS in these hours. There was no crew member on board and the whole procedure took place in automatic mode through the Mission Control Center which followed the procedure. It will be this spacecraft that will bring the three astronauts back to Earth safely while the engineers and technicians will examine the MS-22 capsule once it has returned from its stay in orbit.
Soyuz MS-23 has reached the International Space Station
There Russian spacecraft Soyuz MS-23 in place of Soyuz MS-22 damaged was launched with a Soyuz-2.1a rocket on 24 February at 1:24 (Italian time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome to dock today after an orbital trajectory that led it to approach the ISS during the two days following departure.
The docking with the International Space Station by the Soyuz MS-23 it happened at 1:58 today (Italian time) at the Poisk module. Since an unmanned launch remains one “waste of resources” Roscosmos thought of inserting 430 kg of additional payload inside the spacecraft which will be used for life on board the ISS such as medical supplies, maintenance tools, atmospheric analysis systems, water, food and new experiments for scientific research.
In general plans have changed as the situation in orbit has changed with decisions made in agreement between NASA And Roscosmos to try to reduce the risk of the crew returning to orbit. For example after the Progress MS-21 suffered the damage it was intended to launch the new Soyuz only in March, postponing the previously announced choice. This is because the possibility of a problem at the production level (which would seem to have been averted) was still alive.
Right there Soyuz MS-23 it should have carried a NASA astronaut and two cosmonauts into orbit in March as part of the seat exchange program, but priority was obviously given to safeguarding the crew already in orbit. This spacecraft will return to Earth in September carrying Frank Rubio, Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin.