Russia launches a rescue ship for astronauts after a coolant leak

(CNN) Russia launched the Soyuz spacecraft, which will replace the capsule Coolant leak jumped In December, one NASA astronaut and astronaut were left without a ride home.

The capsule, called Soyuz MS-23, lifted off from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site in Kazakhstan Thursday at 7:24 p.m. ET, which is 5:24 a.m. Friday. local time.

The uncrewed spacecraft will spend about two days in orbit, maneuvering toward the International Space Station and is expected to dock with the Poisk module — located in the Russian-operated portion of the space station — just after 8 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Soyuz MS-23 will be the return vehicle for cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petlin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, all of whom traveled to the space station aboard the Soyuz MS-22 capsule in September.

Instead of flying with crew members on board, Soyuz MS-23 launched Thursday with only a “Zero-G indicator,” which could be anything left in the cabin and is designed to float freely when the capsule enters microgravity. For this task, the pointer is a teddy bear tied to a string inside the booth.

What is the cause of the coolant leak?

About two months into the three men’s flight, the MS-22 experienced a coolant leak, which left the cabin at temperatures considered unsafe for crew members to use on the return flight. Roscosmos and NASA worked quickly to come up with plans to send a rocket Alternative car. Roscosmos officials said they had determined that the cause of the leak was A small hole caused by a collision with a micrometer.

The Soyuz MS-22 (foreground), here in October to a module of the International Space Station, had a coolant leak.

However, plans to launch the rescue craft were called into question when a Russian cargo ship, named Progress, experienced a similar coolant leak after docking with the space station. On February 11, three days later, Roscosmos said in a post on the social networking site Telegram that it would Soyuz MS-23 launch delayed until at least March While the agency investigated the cause of the Progress car’s coolant leak.

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Tuesday, However, Roscosmos said in an updated post on Telegram that it determined the cause of the Progress spacecraft leak was “external influences.”

“The Russians continue to take a closer look at both the Soyuz and Progress cryogenic leaks,” NASA deputy space station administrator Dana Weigel said during a press briefing Wednesday.

“They have formed a government committee that evaluates anomalies,” she added, noting that the team is analyzing possible causes from the time the capsules were launched during their journey in orbit.

Crew change

Originally, Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chubb and NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara were expected to launch to the space station on March 16 aboard MS-23.

Instead, Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio’s time on the space station will be extended so that they can return to Earth aboard Soyuz MS-23 later this year. This comeback may happen in September, according to a report by Russia’s state-run media TASS.

If that schedule continues, the three crew members will have extended their expected six-month stay in space to about one year.

When asked about the extended stay, Joel Montalbano, NASA’s space station program manager, said the crew is still in good health and there is no reason to speed up their trip home.

Montalbano said during a press conference on January 11 that the crew is “ready to help wherever we ask.” “They’re excited to be in space, excited to work and excited to do the research that we’re doing on orbit. So they’re ready to take any decision we make with them.”

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he added, “I may have to fly more Ice cream to reward them.”

The launch of the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft comes just days before NASA and SpaceX launch their Crew-6 mission. Crew 6 is expected to lift off early Monday morning, carrying NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren “Woody” Hoburg as well as Sultan Al Neyadi, an Emirati astronaut, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.

After a brief period These Four Arrive at the Space Station, NASA Crew-5 Astronauts Will Return Home From Their Five-Month Stay There aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. NASA officials said this week that coolant leaks experienced on the Soyuz and Progress vehicles will have no impact on SpaceX missions and that no similar problems have been detected on the Crew Dragon vehicles.

CNN’s Ashley Strickland contributed to this report.

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