Russia claims it won’t intervene immediately in the damaged Soyuz spacecraft.


Russia claims it won’t intervene immediately in the damaged Soyuz spacecraft. Russian experts chose not to immediately take action after working all weekend to more accurately assess damage to their Soyuz spacecraft that is docked at the International Space Station.

The Russian space agency Roscosmos said it believed that a tiny piece of debris ruptured an external cooling loop that radiates heat from the Soyuz into space in a lengthy statement posted Monday morning (a VPN is required to access the site from Western nations).

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Russian experts saw the damaged area on the aft end of the Soyuz spacecraft on Sunday by working with NASA to operate the long Canadarm2 manipulator arm. Although small, the hole, about 0.8 mm across, allowed the external loop’s entire supply of coolant to leak into space last Wednesday. Notably, the visual examination revealed no additional significant debris strike-related damage to the Soyuz vehicle.

The head of Roscosmos told Russian media on Monday that expert working groups would examine the problem for approximately another week. On December 27, Yuri Borisov announced a decision regarding subsequent steps will be made. Currently, two options are being considered: either autonomously launching the following Soyuz, Soyuz MS-23, to the station for the return flight or flying three crew members back to Earth in Soyuz MS-22. As soon as February 19, this Soyuz might be prepared for takeoff.

Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitri Petelin, and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio were part of the Soyuz MS-22 crew that traveled to the space station in September. Before the dramatic coolant leak, they were scheduled to return to Earth in March. As ground controllers and astronauts assess the Soyuz’s damage, two spacewalks on the International Space Station have been postponed.

The Soyuz spacecraft’s interior could become too hot if the external radiator isn’t working. This might harm delicate flight computers, requiring a manual reentry into the atmosphere of Earth. Understanding how the spacecraft’s internal temperature will change once it departs from the space station will probably take up most of the work done over the upcoming week.

The Soyuz is a robust spacecraft that can withstand numerous failures. Russian officials will undoubtedly want to return home using the current spacecraft if possible. This is due to the significant financial cost involved in using a different spacecraft for this return flight than the Soyuz MS-23, which was scheduled to transport three new passengers to the station in March.

Rubio is one of the three crew members who will return to Earth, so NASA is also carefully reviewing the data. The agency hasn’t made many public comments thus far because it prefers to give Russian experts time to analyze the situation and suggest what to do next.

For the time being, the most significant risk will arise if Prokopyev, Petelin, or Rubio experience a medical emergency or a station problem that necessitates an emergency evacuation. It is currently unknown whether the Soyuz MS-22 is a reliable lifeboat.