The first pictures showing the external damage behind the radiator leak aboard a Soyuz spacecraft docked at the International Space Station were made public by Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, on Monday, February 13. Roscosmos claims that a meteoroid strike was what caused the damage, and the organization is still looking into the matter. A camera on the manipulator in the US section of the ISS was used in taking pictures of the hole in the thermoregulation system of the ship’s radiator.
The leak was discovered on December 14. This made the launch of a new Soyuz spacecraft, MS-23, to be delayed until March 2023. Meanwhile, while the situation was being investigated. This delay comes after another coolant leak on the Progress 82 robotic cargo spacecraft. The leak was discovered two days before the photographs were made public.
The Soyuz MS-22 sent NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin to the International Space Station in September. It poses no threat to the station or its crew, according to NASA program officials, despite the leak. However, the ISS partners are still trying desperately to find an answer to this issue.
Astronauts cannot be flown back to Earth on the leaking Soyuz MS-22 unless there is an emergency aboard the station. Prokopyev and Petelin will return in the MS-22 if an evacuation is required prior to the arrival of MS-23. Rubio, on the other hand, is going to have to travel on a SpaceX Dragon capsule. The SpaceX Dragon capsule can only hold four additional astronauts. It is considered to be a dangerous idea to have a third person aboard the coolant-less Soyuz during the scorching ascent through Earth’s atmosphere.
Originally, the Soyuz MS-23 was planned to launch from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in February. It will replace the problematic MS-22, which has been postponed until March. Rubio, Prokopyev, and Petelin’s missions won’t likely be greatly impacted by the short delay. This is because they were already expected to spend twice as much time on the ISS.
Following the mishap, NASA and SpaceX are in talks to increase shielding on the latter’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. Crew-6, the following SpaceX personnel mission to the ISS, is slated to launch on February 26.
The incident serves as a reminder of the significance of routine maintenance and examinations of spacecraft. In addition, it highlights the necessity of emergency procedures and backup plans in the event of unplanned mishaps. To protect the safety of astronauts and crewmembers, it is crucial to maintain a high degree of attention and preparation as space exploration and travel become more widespread.