NASA mulls SpaceX backup plan for crew of Russia’s leaky Soyuz ship read full article at

WASHINGTON: NASA is exploring whether or not SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft can doubtlessly provide an alternate journey house for some crew members of the Worldwide House Station after a Russian capsule sprang a coolant leak whereas docked to the orbital lab.

NASA and Russia’s house company, Roscosmos, are investigating the reason for a punctured coolant line on an exterior radiator of Russia’s Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft, which is meant to return its crew of two cosmonauts and one US astronaut to Earth early subsequent 12 months.

However the Dec 14 leak, which emptied the Soyuz of a significant fluid used to manage crew cabin temperatures, has derailed Russia’s house station routines, with engineers in Moscow inspecting whether or not to launch one other Soyuz to retrieve the three-man group that flew to ISS aboard the crippled MS-22 craft.

If Russia can not launch one other Soyuz ship, or decides for some purpose that doing so can be too dangerous, NASA is weighing an alternative choice.

“We have now requested SpaceX a couple of questions on their functionality to return extra crew members on Dragon if vital, however that isn’t our prime focus at the moment,” NASA spokeswoman Sandra Jones mentioned in a press release to Reuters.

SpaceX didn’t reply to a Reuters request for remark.

It was unclear what NASA particularly requested of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capabilities, resembling whether or not the corporate can discover a approach to enhance the crew capability of the Dragon presently docked to the station, or launch an empty capsule for the crew’s rescue.

However the firm’s potential involvement in a mission led by Russia underscores the diploma of precaution NASA is taking to make sure its astronauts can safely return to Earth, ought to one of many different contingency plans organized by Russia fall by.

The leaky Soyuz capsule ferried US astronaut Frank Rubio and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dimitri Petelin to the house station in September for a six-month mission. They had been scheduled to return to Earth in March 2023.

The station’s 4 different crew members – two extra from NASA, a 3rd Russian cosmonaut and a Japanese astronaut – arrived in October by way of a NASA-contracted SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, which additionally stays parked on the ISS.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, a gumdrop-shaped pod with 4 astronaut seats, has change into the centrepiece to NASA’s human spaceflight efforts in low-Earth orbit. In addition to Russia’s Soyuz programme, it’s the solely entity able to ferrying people to the house station and again.


Discovering what prompted the leak might issue into choices about the easiest way to return the crew members. A meteroid-caused puncture, a strike from a bit of house particles or a {hardware} failure on the Soyuz capsule itself are three potential causes of the leak that NASA and Roscosmos are investigating.

A {hardware} malfunction might elevate extra questions for Roscosmos in regards to the integrity of different Soyuz automobiles, such because the one it’d ship for the crew’s rescue, mentioned Mike Suffredini, who led NASA’s ISS programme for a decade till 2015.

“I can guarantee you that is one thing they’re , to see what’s again there and whether or not there is a concern for it,” he mentioned. “The factor in regards to the Russians is that they’re actually good at not speaking about what they’re doing, however they’re very thorough.”

Roscosmos chief Yuri Borisov had beforehand mentioned engineers would resolve by Tuesday easy methods to return the crew to Earth, however the company mentioned that day it could make the choice in January.

NASA has beforehand mentioned the capsule’s temperatures stay “inside acceptable limits”, with its crew compartment presently being vented with air circulation allowed by an open hatch to the ISS.

Sergei Krikalev, Russia’s chief of crewed house programmes, advised reporters final week that the temperature would rise quickly if the hatch to the station had been closed.

NASA and Roscosmos are primarily specializing in figuring out the leak’s trigger, Jones mentioned, in addition to the well being of MS-22 which can be meant to function the three-man crew’s lifeboat in case an emergency on the station requires evacuation.

A current meteor bathe initially appeared to lift the chances of a micrometeoroid strike because the wrongdoer, however the leak was dealing with the unsuitable manner for that to be the case, NASA’s ISS programme supervisor Joel Montalbano advised reporters final week, although an area rock might have come from one other course.

And if a bit of house particles is guilty, it might gasoline issues of an more and more messy orbital atmosphere and lift questions on whether or not such important tools because the spacecraft’s coolant line ought to have been protected by particles shielding, as different components of the MS-22 spacecraft are.

“We’re not shielded towards every part all through the house station,” Suffredini mentioned. “We won’t protect towards every part.”

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