NASA is considering SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule as a potential ride home for some International Space Station (ISS) crew members. The plan follows an incident in which a Russian Soyuz capsule experienced a cooling crack earlier this month while landing on the space station.
NASA and Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, are investigating the cause of a coolant line puncture on the external radio of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft currently docked at the space station. The Soyuz capsule MS-22 is scheduled to bring its crew of two cosmonauts and one US astronaut to Earth early next year.
In the incident, which occurred on December 14, the vital fluid was used to control the temperature of the cabin on the Soyuz spacecraft. Engineers in Moscow are now evaluating the possibility of launching another Soyuz capsule to receive a three-person crew aboard the MS-22 craft.
In the event that Russia is unable to launch another Soyuz spacecraft or decides that it would be more dangerous to do so, NASA is considering other options. The facility is now considering using SpaceX’s Crew Dragon as a backup option for the damaged Soyuz crew, according to a report on Reuters.
“We’ve asked SpaceX a few questions about their ability to return additional crew members to the Dragon if needed, but that’s our primary focus at this time,” NASA spokeswoman Sandra Jones said.
While NASA is considering using SpaceX as a backup power option for the Soyuz crew, it is not yet clear what specific capabilities NASA will require from Crew Dragon. This includes whether SpaceX can increase the crew capacity of the Dragon that has already landed on the ISS or if launching an empty capsule for a rescue mission would be a better option.
The Soyuz capsule that experienced a crack during its mission was carrying US astronaut Frank Rubio and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dimitri Petelin. The astronaut traveled to space in September and is expected to return to Earth in March 2023.
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