A stream of particles, which NASA says appears to be liquid and possibly cooling, sprays from the Soyuz spacecraft on the International Station, during a space exploration exercise by two Russian cosmonauts on December 14, 2022, in this still image. I see.
NASA TV | via Reuters
NASA is investigating whether SpaceX’s Dragon shuttle could potentially offer an alternative ride home to some members of the International Space Station crew after the Russian capsule leaked out when it landed at the orbital lab.
NASA and Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, have blamed a coolant line puncture on the external radio spacecraft Soyuz MS-22, which is expected to return its crew of two cosmonauts and one US astronaut to Earth next year.
but Leak 14 Dec, which used the Soyuz’s vital fluid to control the temperature of the crew cabin, disrupted the routines of the Russian space station, with engineers in Moscow exploring whether to send another Soyuz to retrieve the three-man crew that flew to the ISS’s disabled spacecraft. .
If Russia can’t send another Soyuz spacecraft, or for some reason decides it’s too dangerous, NASA is considering another option.
“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 in a statement to Reuters.
SpaceX did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
It was unclear what NASA specifically asked for the capabilities of SpaceX’s Dragon, such as whether the company could find a way to increase the ability of the Crew Dragon to land on the station now, or launch an empty capsule to rescue the crew.
But the company’s potential implication for a mission led by Russia is that NASA’s level of caution is to ensure that its astronauts can safely return to Earth if one of the other contingency plans arranged by Russia falls through.
The Soyuz capsule will carry astronaut Frank Rubio and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dimitri Petelin to the space station in September for a six-month mission. They are scheduled to return to Earth in March 2013.
Four other members of the station’s crew — two more from NASA, a third Russian cosmonaut and a Japanese astronaut — arrived in October via the NASA-powered SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, which also remains stationed on the ISS.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, a gumdrop-sized vessel that seats four astronauts, has become a central part of NASA’s Earth-orbiting human space effort. Other than Russia’s Soyuz program, it is the only thing capable of launching humans to the space station.
Three possible culprits
Finding out what the leak was was a factor in decisions about the best way to get back to the crew members. A puncture caused by a meteoroid, a hit from a space debris particle or a hardware failure in the Soyuz capsule itself are three possible causes of the leak that NASA and Roscosmos are investigating.
The hardware malfunction raised additional questions for Roscosmos about the integrity of the other Soyuz vehicles, so it could send one for crew support, said Mike Suffredini, who led NASA’s ISS program for a decade until 2015.
“I can assure you that it’s something you’re looking for, see what’s there, and see if there’s any interest,” he said. “The thing about the Russians is really good that they don’t talk about what they’re doing, but they have to be investigated.”
Roscosmos chief Yuri Borisov previously said engineers would decide on Tuesday how to return the crew to Earth, but the agency said that date would be decided in January.
NASA previously said the capsule’s temperatures “remain within acceptable limits” when its crew compartment is now pulled by airflow through the ISS’s open hatch.
Sergei Krikalev, the head of Russia’s space crew program, told reporters last week that temperatures would rise faster if they were shut down to the station.
NASA and Roscosmos are primarily working to determine the cause of the leak, Jones said, as well as the health of MS-XXII, which is also intended to serve as a crew shuttle in case an emergency at the launch station requires it.
A recent meteor shower initially seemed to raise erratic micrometeoroid motion as the culprit, but the leak turned out to be the wrong cause, NASA ISS program manager Joel Montalbano told reporters last week, though it could have been a space rock. they come from elsewhere.
And if a piece of space debris is at fault, it can fuel concerns more and more about the orbital environment and question whether such vital equipment as the space debris coolant line should be protected from debris, like the rest of the MS-22. there are spaces.
“We are not safe against everything throughout the space station,” said Suffredini. “We can’t protect everything.”
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