It is not known how astronauts will return from space to Earth. The reason for the failure of the Soyuz is still unknown
A few months ago, the Russian Soyuz MS-22 docked with the International Space Station (ISS). It had a serious coolant leak. Engineers from Roskosmos and NASA are looking for the cause of the failure. In addition, they are thinking about how to help astronauts on the ISS return safely to Earth. One of the concepts assumes the support of the commercial company SpaceX.
Engineers NASA intend to investigate whether SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft could prove to be a potential means of transportation for some International Space Station (ISS) crew members after the Russian Soyuz MS-22 capsule leaked coolant during docking. In September, a leaky capsule carried one American and two Russians to the ISS: Frank Rubio, Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitry Petlin.
find the cause
NASA and employees of the Russian space agency Roskosmos have been searching for weeks for the cause of the malfunction of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft, which was supposed to return to Earth in March with three astronauts. It could have been caused by the capsule colliding with a piece of space rock or with space debris. It is also possible that the failure occurred in the capsule itself. If it happened because of the last possibility, it undermines the integrity and security of all other devices in the Soyuz family.
– I can assure you that it is something that [Rosjanie – przyp. red.] they examine and evaluate. The Russians are really good at not talking about what they’re doing, but they’re very thorough in what they do,” said Mike Suffredini, who led NASA’s ISS program from 2005 to 2015.
The head of Roskosmos, Yuri Borisov, promised that engineers would decide in the next few days how the crew would return to Earth. Time is not an ally here, as it is not known how long the temperature in the capsule will remain “within acceptable limits”. For now, her crew compartment is ventilated through an air intake from an open hatch to the ISS. According to Sergei Krikaliev, head of Russia’s manned space programs, if the hatch is closed, the temperature will rise sharply.
The problem may indeed have resulted from a recent meteoroid shower, but as program manager Joel Montalbano pointed out, the one rock that destroyed the cooling system must have come from an unexpected direction. Therefore, a piece of space debris is more likely to hit. This hypothesis, however, fuels concerns about the increasingly hostile orbital environment and the proper construction of spacecraft.
They don’t know how to help them back
An unplanned leak thwarted the plans of Russian engineers, forcing them to find an alternative solution for the safe return of researchers from the ISS. One option was to send in cosmos another ship of the same family, but given the technical circumstances, it may be too risky and attract a lot of criticism. That’s why NASA reached out and offered a different concept – involving the support of the commercial space enterprise – SpaceX.
“We’ve asked SpaceX several questions about their ability to transport additional crew members on Dragon if necessary,” NASA spokeswoman Sandra Jones said. For now, it is not clear whether it is about finding a way to increase the ship’s capacity or launching an empty capsule to help the crew.
There are currently four other astronauts on the ISS. Two work for NASA, one for Roscosmos, and the last one for JAXA – the Japanese Space Agency. The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule has also been parked on the ISS since October. This ship is only able to accommodate four people. Apart from the Russian Soyuz, it is the only reusable means of transport that people can travel to and from the ISS.
Main photo source: Shutterstock
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