NASA may turn to its commercial partner SpaceX to fly three astronauts back to Earth after Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft suffered a coolant leak in mid-December.
In a blog post published on Friday, NASA He said It has “communicated with SpaceX about its ability to bring additional crew members back aboard the Dragon if needed in an emergency.” The space agency added that currently, NASA is investigating whether the Soyuz spacecraft will still be able to carry astronauts on the return trip from the International Space Station.
The Soyuz spacecraft delivered NASA astronauts Frank Rubio and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petlin to the International Space Station in September 2022. On December 14, the spacecraft launched A coolant leak into low Earth orbit while attached to the International Space Station. The coolant leak lasted for three hours and was caught live by NASA Television. The astronauts aboard the space station were unharmed, but the fate of the three astronauts who were supposed to use the Soyuz spacecraft to return to Earth is still up in the air.
“NASA and Roscosmos continue to conduct a variety of engineering reviews and consult with other international partners on ways to safely bring the Soyuz crew home for both normal and emergency scenarios,” NASA wrote in the blog post. The two space agencies are expected to make a final decision on the viability of the spacecraft this month.
Roskosmos hoped to make a decision by December 27, however The space agency announced that it needed more time To assess the flight capabilities of the Soyuz spacecraft. The exact reason behind the leak has not been announced, although it could be Because of a small meteorite or a small piece of space junk That left a 0.8-millimeter-wide hole in the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft.
Rubio was the first NASA astronaut to fly aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket since April 2021file result Seat swap agreement between the two space agencies. The arrangement stipulated that an American astronaut would ride aboard a Soyuz capsule in exchange for a Russian astronaut riding aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon for the first time. If the Soyuz spacecraft is deemed unusable for a crew return, NASA could ask SpaceX to send a Dragon crew to pick up the three astronauts from the International Space Station and return them to Earth. The astronauts are due to return in the spring after spending six months aboard the International Space Station.
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