Russia launched a ship to rescue two cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut after the transport that would bring them back to Earth registered a dangerous leak
Russia launched a spacecraft to rescue two cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut after the transport that would bring them back to Earth registered a dangerous leak while docked to the International Space Station. The new Soyuz capsule should arrive at the space laboratory on Sunday.
Last December’s leaks in the capsule were attributed to a micrometeorite that punctured an external radiator and caused a leak of cooling fluid. The same thing seemed to happen this month, this time on a docked Russian cargo ship. Camera images showed a small hole in both ships.
The Russian Space Agency postponed the launch of the replacement capsule while it looked for any manufacturing defects. No problems were found and the agency proceeded to launch the capsule with supply packs strapped to the three seats early on Friday from Kazakhstan.
Given the urgent need for this capsule, two senior NASA officials flew in from the United States to witness the launch. The spacecraft reached orbit safely nine minutes after liftoff, NASA’s Rob Navias reported from Houston.
Officials had determined it was too dangerous to bring NASA’s Frank Rubio and Russia’s Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin back to Earth in the damaged capsule next month, as originally planned. Without coolant, the cabin temperature would have skyrocketed during re-entry, potentially damaging computers and other equipment and exposing the crew to excessively high temperatures.
As long as the new Soyuz capsule does not arrive, the emergency plan indicates that Rubio must transfer to a SpaceX crew capsule that is docked to the space station. Prokopyev and Petelin remain assigned to their Soyuz capsule in the unlikely event that they need to evacuate quickly. One less person on board would keep the temperature at a manageable level, according to the conclusions of Russian engineers.