Russia will launch a new spacecraft to bring back the crew from the International Space Station

The Russian space company, Roscosmos, said on Wednesday that it will launch a new spacecraft to return some of the International Space Station crew members to Earth after their capsule was damaged and a coolant leaked.

Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petlin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio arrived at the station in September aboard Soyuz MS-22 and planned to use the capsule to return to Earth. But it leaked coolant last month, causing cabin temperatures to skyrocket.

After analyzing the situation and discussing it with NASA, Roscosmos decided to launch a new Soyuz MS-23 capsule in automatic mode without a crew on February 20 that the trio will use for return, RSA chief Yury Borisov told reporters.

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Borisov said, without specifying how long the mandate of Prokopyev, Petlin and Rubio will be extended. He confirmed that Roscosmos discussed this step with NASA, which approved the plan.

Soyuz MS-23 was initially scheduled to launch in March to carry two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut into orbit.

The International Space Station is pictured above on March 30, 2022. The Russian space company, Roscosmos, said on December 19, 2022, that a coolant leak from a Russian space capsule attached to the International Space Station does not require the evacuation of its crew, but that a replacement spacecraft will be sent to the station, so that the crew can From returning to Russia.
(Roscosmos State Space Corporation via AP, File)

Borisov said that Russian space officials discussed the option of launching the new Soyuz spacecraft with a crew member, but decided against it because it required longer preparations. He added that Soyuz MS23 will also transport some supplies to the International Space Station.

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In the event of an emergency on the International Space Station that requires the entire crew to be evacuated before the new capsule arrives, space officials will consider whether Soyuz MS-22 can be used safely, Borisov said.

The leak from the Soyuz MS-22 was spotted in December when the Russians were about to exit the station on a planned spacewalk and specialists on the ground saw a stream of liquids and particles emanating from the Soyuz in a live video broadcast from space.

Borisov said on Wednesday that analysis confirmed that the leak was caused by a micrometeor. He said Soyuz MS-22 will eventually be sent back to Earth without a crew.

Both Roscosmos and NASA said the accident posed no danger to the station’s crew. Officials from the Russian and US space agencies are scheduled to speak jointly about the current plans later on Wednesday.

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Along with Prokopyev, Betlin, and Rubio, four other crew members are currently on the outpost: NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada. Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; and Anna Kikina from Roscosmos.

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