Soyuz MS-23 to Launch on February 23rd, Providing Return Trip for Stranded Astronauts
On February 23rd, Russian space agency Roscosmos is expected to launch the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft, the latest mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The spacecraft will provide a ride home for two cosmonauts and one U.S. astronaut, who have been stranded on the station since December 14th. That day, an external coolant leak was detected on their return vehicle, the Soyuz MS-22, rendering it inoperable.
The leak was likely caused by a small meteoroid colliding with the MS-22's radiator, according to Sergei Krikalev, director of crewed space flight programs at Roscosmos. The agency also determined that the leak occurred on the Progress MS-21 cargo vehicle on February 11th, likely due to an external influence, and not a manufacturing defect.
The MS-23 mission was initially planned for launch on February 19th, but was delayed to give Russian engineers more time to evaluate the cause of the Progress coolant leak. Now, the spacecraft will launch uncrewed from the Russia-run Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:24 p.m. 3:34 a.m. EST on Friday, February 24th. NASA will start carrying coverage live on NASA Television at 7 p.m. Thursday at 8:00 PM EST (0000 GMT on Feb
The three astronauts on board the ISS, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, were supposed to come back in the spring, but the mission has been extended until September. The incoming Russian Soyuz craft will bring them back to Earth in September, six months longer than intended.
In the meantime, NASA and SpaceX are preparing to launch a Crew Dragon spacecraft to the station early Monday carrying Crew-6 astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, along with cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev and Emerati astronaut Sultan Alneyadi.
The Soyuz MS-23 mission is critical to providing the three astronauts with a safe ride home and serving as a lifeboat in case of an emergency that might require an immediate evacuation of the station. The spacecraft will launch on February 23rd, if all goes according to plan.
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