The launch of a Russian Soyuz crew capsule to replace a damaged ferry at the International Space Station is being delayed after another similar incident.a senior official said on Monday.
In both cases, the spacecraft suffered a complete loss of coolant, raising the prospect of high internal temperatures that could damage flight computers or other sensitive systems after unlocking. The Soyuz was damaged by an estimated micrometeoroid impact. The cause of the Progress damage is still unknown.
It is probably unlikely that separate impact events occurring two months apart that could damage the same system on two different spacecraft, but it would seem unlikely that two different issues, one of with influence and the other, affect the same systems.
In any case, Yuri Borisov, head of Russia’s federal space agency Roscosmos, said Monday’s launch of the replacement Soyuz, planned for February 19, was delayed until March pending further analysis.
NASA and SpaceX plan to launch a Crew Dragon capsule carrying two astronauts, a Russian cosmonaut and a United Arab Emirates astronaut on February 26. They will replace four other Crew Dragon astronauts who plan to return to Earth on March 4. Those flights remain on schedule.
The Soyuz MS-22 crew – Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitri Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio – was launched to the space station last September. They planned to return to Earth next month to end their own six-month stay in space.
But on December 14, a suspected micrometeoroid was found in the hull of the Soyuz, apparently rupturing a coolant line. Roscosmos released photos of the impact site on Monday, showing what appeared to be a small puncture surrounded by discoloration caused by escaping coolant.
Russian engineers concluded that the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft could not safely carry its three crew members home and chose to launch it, MS-23, no crew on board. Prokopyev and his colleagues will return to Earth in September aboard the new spacecraft.
But last Saturday, the cargo ship Progressin an apparently unrelated incident. Unlike the damaged Soyuz, whatever caused the Progress issue happened on the side of the vehicle that is not visible to space station cameras. Engineers still don’t know if there was an impact other than whether a component failed.
“A commission is working on the case of Progress …,” Borisov said in statements translated on Telegram. “Pending the determination of the cause of the emergency, it was decided to postpone the launch of the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft in unmanned mode until March 2023.
“We emphasize that nothing threatens the life and health of the staff,” the post concluded.
Turkey grapples with earthquake devastation
U-Haul hits pedestrians in New York City
New images released of Chinese spy balloon