Soyuz MS-23 will carry NASA’s Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Petlin, Sergey Prokopyev and Frank Rubio to Earth later this year.
Russia has launched an uncrewed Soyuz spacecraft on a rescue mission to bring back two cosmonauts and a NASA cosmonaut whose journey to Earth was disrupted after their original spacecraft was damaged by a small meteorite while parked on the International Space Station (ISS).
Live video broadcast by the International Space Station partner NASA showed that the Soyuz MS23 spacecraft successfully lifted off from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday.
Although MS-23 is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station early Sunday morning Moscow time, Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Petlin and Sergey Prokopyev and American astronaut Frank Rubio are not expected to return until later this year.
The three arrived at the International Space Station in September 2022 aboard the MS-22 spacecraft and were to stay in the original for six months until the end of March. But MS-22 began leaking coolant in December after an apparently small meteorite punctured an external radiator.
The same thing appeared to happen again earlier this month, this time on a docked Russian cargo ship. Camera views showed a small pinhole in each spacecraft.
The uncrewed Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft blasted off at 7:24 PM ET for a two-day trip to the space station to replace MS-22, which had a cooling system leak in December 2022. Read more.. https://t.co/xG17Qs7q7n pic.twitter.com/970Cle2yK6
– International Space Station (Space_Station) February 24, 2023
MS-23, which took off on Friday, was initially scheduled to launch in mid-March with two astronauts and a cosmonaut on board who would take over from Rubio, Betlin and Prokopyev on the space station. But without the replacement crew aboard MS-23, the two Russians and the American crew member will continue to work on the International Space Station through September.
Officials had decided that returning the three in their damaged Soyuz MS-22 next month as planned was too risky. With no refrigerant, the cabin temperature would rise during the flight back to Earth, potentially damaging computers and other equipment, and exposing the proper crew to excessive heat.
The damaged Soyuz MS-22 is scheduled to lift off from the International Space Station in late March and return to Earth “for an uncrewed, parachute-assisted landing in Kazakhstan, and post-flight analysis by Russian space agency Roscosmos,” NASA said in a statement.
After delivering people to the space station, the capsules remain connected to the orbiting research laboratory for the duration of the missions, should any emergencies occur and eventually transfer their crews back to Earth.
In addition to the three crew awaiting the arrival of MS-23, there are also four others currently on the International Space Station after arriving aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule last October as part of the Crew-5 mission.
They are set to be joined next week by members of the Crew-6 mission — two US citizens, an Emirati and a Russian — who will also arrive aboard a SpaceX capsule expected to launch Monday from Florida. After a few days of overlap, Crew-5 will then return to Earth.
Space has been a rare venue for cooperation between Moscow and Washington since the start of the Russian war in Ukraine and subsequent Western sanctions against Russia.
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