NASA is reviewing SpaceX’s backup plan for the crew of the leaking Russian Soyuz spacecraft

NASA is reviewing SpaceX’s backup plan for the crew of the leaking Russian Soyuz spacecraft

  • NASA asks SpaceX about Crew Dragon backup capabilities
  • The Russian area company NASA is investigating the reason for the leak from the Soyuz spacecraft.
  • Return journey of three-man Soyuz crew from area station stays unclear

WASHINGTON, Dec 28 (Reuters) – NASA is investigating whether or not SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft might probably provide another journey house for some Worldwide House Station crew members after the Russian capsule leaked coolant throughout docking with the orbiting laboratory.

NASA and the Russian area company “Raskosmos” are investigating the reason for the rupture of the coolant line on the exterior radiator of the Russian Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft, whose crew of two cosmonauts and one American astronaut is because of return to Earth early subsequent 12 months.

However December 14 leakage, that drained the Soyuz of important fluid used to manage the crew’s cabin temperature, derailed the Russian area station’s routine, and engineers in Moscow are contemplating launching one other Soyuz to carry again the three-man crew that flew on ISS on board the crippled ship MS-22.

If Russia cannot launch one other Soyuz spacecraft, or for some cause decides it could be too dangerous to take action, NASA is contemplating another choice.

“We have now requested SpaceX a number of questions on their potential to return extra crew members to Dragon if mandatory, however that’s not our major focus at the moment,” NASA spokeswoman Sandra Jones mentioned in an announcement to Reuters.

SpaceX didn’t reply to a Reuters request for remark.

It remained unclear what NASA particularly requested about SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capabilities, reminiscent of whether or not the corporate might discover a solution to enhance the variety of Crew Dragons at present docked on the station or launch an empty capsule to rescue the crew.

However the firm’s potential involvement within the Russian-led mission underscores the diploma of precaution NASA is taking to make sure that astronauts can safely return to Earth if one of many different contingency plans orchestrated by Russia fails.

The leaky Soyuz capsule carried American astronaut Frank Rubio and cosmonauts Sergei Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin to the area station in September for a six-month mission. They had been alleged to return to Earth in March 2023.

The station’s 4 different crew members — two extra from NASA, a 3rd Russian cosmonaut and a Japanese astronaut — arrived in October through a NASA-contracted SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule that additionally stays parked on the ISS.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, a rubber band-shaped capsule with 4 seats for astronauts, has turn into the centerpiece of NASA’s efforts to place people into area in low Earth orbit. Aside from the Russian Soyuz program, it’s the solely group able to delivering folks to the area station and again.


Figuring out what precipitated the leak could have an effect on the choice about one of the best ways to get well the crew members. A puncture brought on by a meteoroid, an influence by a bit of area particles or a {hardware} failure within the Soyuz capsule itself are three potential causes of the leak that NASA and Roskosmos are investigating.

A {hardware} failure might increase additional questions for Roskosmos in regards to the integrity of different Soyuz craft, such because the one it could ship to rescue the crew, mentioned Mike Suffredini, who ran NASA’s ISS program for a decade till 2015.

“I can guarantee you they’re taking a look at it to see what’s there and if there’s any concern,” he mentioned. “The factor about Russians is that they are actually good at not speaking about what they’re doing, however they’re very thorough.”

The top of Roscosmos, Yuriy Barysau, beforehand mentioned that engineers would resolve by Tuesday how you can return the crew to Earth, however the company mentioned on the identical day that it could decide in January.

NASA beforehand mentioned the capsule’s temperature stays “inside acceptable limits” and its crew compartment is at present being ventilated with airflow coming in by an open hatch on the ISS.

Sergei Krikalev, head of Russia’s crewed area program, informed reporters final week that temperatures would rise rapidly if the hatch to the station was closed.

NASA and Roskosmos are primarily centered on figuring out the reason for the leak, Jones mentioned, in addition to the well being of MS-22, which can be meant to function a lifeboat for the three-person crew within the occasion of an emergency on the station that requires evacuation.

The current meteor bathe initially appeared to extend the probability of a micrometeorite influence, however the leak was pointed within the fallacious path for that to occur, NASA’s ISS program supervisor Joel Montalbano informed reporters final week, though the area rock might have come from the opposite aspect.

And if area particles is responsible, that would increase issues about an more and more soiled orbital atmosphere and lift questions on whether or not very important gear just like the spacecraft’s coolant line ought to have been shielded from particles like different components of MS-22. spaceships seem.

“We’re not proof against all the things on the complete area station,” Suffredini mentioned. “We will not defend towards all the things.”

Reporting by Joey Roulette; Enhancing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

Our requirements: Thomson Reuters Belief Ideas.

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