Science

NASA asks SpaceX about options for rescuing the International Space Station

NASA has requested the ability to use the SpaceX Dragon capsule to bring astronauts home from the International Space Station (ISS) following a recent leak aboard the Russian Soyuz capsule, according to a NASA blog post.

On December 15, 2022, a Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft suffered a serious coolant leak while docking with the ISS shortly before a scheduled Russian spacewalk. While a leaky Soyuz poses no immediate danger to the space station or its crew, it remains unknown if the Soyuz is airworthy; Thus, the MS-22 crew no longer has a lifeboat in case of an emergency.

In an attempt to potentially provide an alternative lifeboat for Russian cosmonauts Sergei Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, NASA and Russian space agency Roscosmos are conducting a review of available options, including a request from SpaceX to use one of its Dragon capsules as a replacement.” Soyuz MS-22″.

“As part of the analysis, NASA has also reached out to SpaceX about its ability to return additional crew members aboard the Dragon if needed in an emergency, although the focus is on understanding the capabilities following the Soyuz MS-22 leak. the space agency wrote in a December 30 blog post. (will open in a new tab).

See also: Soyuz rescue ship will not be able to reach the International Space Station until February

A previous report published by Reuters said the same thing, but a NASA blog post confirms that the agency is actually considering using the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft as a lifeboat on the ISS. “We’ve asked SpaceX a few questions about their ability to bring additional Dragon crew members back if needed, but that’s not our top priority at this time,” NASA spokeswoman Sandra Jones said in a statement to Reuters last Wednesday (December 28). . ).

Another option is to send the Soyuz ship to Roskosmos to replace it. But the earliest such mission could be launched in February, according to Sergei Krikalev, head of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow, during a live broadcast of a December 22 NASA press conference. “Our next crew… the flight is scheduled for mid-March,” Krikalev said, adding that in the very near future, the new Soyuz could be “sent a little earlier … two or three weeks earlier is the maximum that we can do at this time. “dot.”

Roscosmos is still investigating the cause of the leak and plans to publish its findings this month. Russian state news agency TASS reported on December 27 that “external mechanical damage” was the cause of the leak. (will open in a new tab)”, although it remains unknown whether a meteoroid or space debris was the culprit.

Whatever the cause of the leak, the damaged Soyuz spacecraft poses a serious safety risk to the crew of the MS-22, Rubio, Petelin and Prokopiev. Tommaso Sgobba, executive director of the International Association for the Advancement of Space Security (IAASS) and former head of space flight safety at the European Space Agency, told Space.com that a leaky Soyuz poses a huge risk. “This will most likely be the first time that a space station does not have a full-fledged lifeboat,” Sgobba said. “This is my personal opinion, but if it is true, we are in big trouble on the space station. We lack a crew rescue system.”

One potential obstacle to using the Dragon as a lifeboat is the spacesuits worn by the MS-22 crew; The SpaceX capsules are designed to work in conjunction with custom-made SpaceX spacesuits, and the MS-22 crew launched to the ISS in Russian Sokol spacesuits.

SpaceX has not yet commented on the possibility of sending a Dragon capsule to the ISS to replace the beleaguered Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft.

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