NASA and Roscosmos are investigating the cause of the Russian Soyuz MS-22 coolant leak. The spacecraft is currently docked at the International Space Station (ISS). The leak occured on December 14/15 from a hole on the vehicle's external radiator. The agency has not yet determined what caused the puncture, it could be a micrometeoroid, or space debris that struck the vehicle, or even hardware issues. The fluid that was leaked is vital to regulating the Soyuz’s cabin temperature.
The agencies are assessing whether the spacecraft would be safe to return three astronauts back home by March.The crew that launched on this mission are: Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dimitri Petelin, alongside United States NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, who launched on Soyuz as part of a diplomatic barter agreement between Russia’s Roscosmos and NASA.
Rocosmos could decide to launch another Soyuz spacecraft to bring the astronauts down to Earth. NASA is also considering the alternative option of giving the Russian cosmonauts a ride back home on SpaceX's Crew Dragon. “We have asked SpaceX a few questions on their capability to return additional crew members on Dragon if necessary, but that is not our prime focus at this time," NASA spokeswoman Sandra Jones told Reuters reporters.
SpaceX's Crew Dragon Endurance is currently docked at the Space Station, it only has four seats for the Crew-5 astronauts who are scheduled to return in mid-February after their 6-month mission ends. It is unclear whether Ms. Jones was referring to bringing the Soyuz crewmembers back on Dragon Endurance, or considering launching another Dragon capsule to rescue the Soyuz crew. If it is the former, SpaceX would have to improvise on how to accomodate the additional crew of three alongside Crew-5 astronauts and determine whether it is possible. Ms. Jones did not provide any additional details to reporters about NASA's conversation with SpaceX representatives.
Featured Image Source: NASA
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.