June 20, 2024

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Here’s what we know and don’t know about the damaged Soyuz spacecraft

Here's what we know and don't know about the damaged Soyuz spacecraft
Zoom in / The European robotic arm is seen investigating Soyuz MS-22 after a leak occurred Wednesday night.


Since a The Soyuz spacecraft began leaking coolant Uncontrollably on Wednesday night, flight controllers at Roscosmos, NASA and other partners on the International Space Station closely studied the data from the accident.

Although there was no immediate danger to the seven astronauts aboard the space station, this is one of the most serious accidents in the history of the orbiting laboratory, which has been continuously occupied for nearly a quarter of a century. Among the most pressing questions: Is the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft safe to return to Earth? If not, when could a replacement aircraft, the Soyuz MS-23, be flown? And if there is an emergency, what do the three crew members scheduled to fly home on MS-22 do in the meantime?

NASA has not held any media briefings since the accident and has only issued a Fairly nice update on her blog. But there is a lot going on behind the scenes, and this story will attempt to sum up what is known – and what is not – at this time.

What is known

Roscomos was unable to stop the external cooling loop leak, so the leak only stopped if there was no coolant present. In the immediate aftermath, Russian flight controllers attempted to use the European robotic arm, attached to the Russian portion of the station, to monitor the stern end of the Soyuz where the leak occurred. This 11-meter arm did not provide conclusive data.

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As a result, NASA will use the 17.6-meter long Canadarm2 — also known as the space station’s remote manipulator system — to get a closer look at the Soyuz spacecraft. It is hoped that this visual inspection, likely to take place over the weekend, will provide more definitive information about the source of the leak, its cause, and whether other elements of the Soyuz spacecraft were damaged. To facilitate this work, NASA will delay a space walk that astronauts Frank Rubio and Josh Cassada were scheduled to take place on Monday.

In other diagnostic work, Roscosmos tested the thrusters of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft early Friday morning to determine if there were any problems with its propulsion system. This test was, according to the sources, nominal.

However, the biggest concern is the overheating of the laptops on the Soyuz spacecraft. They are used to calculate the exact entry of the Soyuz to ensure that it lands in a specific area of ​​Kazakhstan, near the recovery forces. Without trip computers, the procedure would have to be done manually. This is possible but far from optimal, as the area in which Soyuz might land would be vast.

During the Thunderbolt test on Monday morning, the flight computer temperature rose, but did not exceed temperature limits, according to one of the sources. There was a speculative report in the Russian press that the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft had reached an internal temperature of 50 degrees Celsius, but Roscosmos said This is not accurate.