ROSCOSMOS Set to Launch Soyuz MS-23 to Replace ISS’ Damaged Soyuz MS-22
On Friday, February 24th, Russia’s space agency, ROSCOSMOS, is set to launch an uncrewed Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). The mission aims to replace the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft, which suffered a thermal control system leak on the ISS on December 15, 2022. The Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft will be launched atop a Soyuz 2.1a launch vehicle at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft had a crew of three, Sergey Prokopyev (Commander), Dmitry Petelin (Flight Engineer 1), and Francisco Rubio (Flight Engineer 2) aboard. It is currently believed that the issue occurred in the cooling system due to an object of ~1 mm puncturing a hole in the external cooling loop of the spacecraft. However, it can not be determined whether this was a micrometeoroid or a small piece of orbital debris.
The leak drama has extended the mission duration for Prokopyev, Petelin, and Rubio, who came up to the ISS on MS-22 last September. The three astronauts will remain on the space station until September 2023, so that another Soyuz spacecraft can be sent up with a new crew in the same year.
In order to inspect the damage, Russian cosmonauts and remote controlled cameras outside the complex captured high-resolution images of the Progress MS-21 spacecraft, revealing a 12-millimeter hole where the coolant fluid flowed out of the cooling system Feb. 11. On February 18, engineers undocked Progress 82 from the ISS after finding the leak on the 11th. Progress 82 was loaded with garbage, and its engine was fired to take it out of orbit. In less than an hour, the impact was felt in the Southern Pacific Ocean.
On Tuesday, Roscosmos, Russia's space agency, shared an update on their Telegram channel that the initial investigation into the destruction of the Progress MS-21 cargo ship yielded results pointing to an “external influence,” rather than a production fault. An image of the Progress MS-21 cargo ship revealed a 12mm gap in the vessel's instrumentation compartment that the Russian space agency attributed to “external influences.”
Early Monday morning, NASA is anticipating to launch its upcoming crew to the International Space Station.
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