Russian space officials will make a “final decision” in January on whether to let the leaky Soyuz fly its crew back to Earth, state media reported.
Russian federal space agency Roskosmos said it was awaiting the results of a working group investigating a serious Soyuz spacecraft leak at the International Space Station on December 15 that blew coolant into space.
Roskosmos will publish “possible changes to the station’s flight program in January 2023 based on the findings of the working groups,” the state news agency TASS writes. (will open in a new tab) on Tuesday (December 27).
A subsequent Soyuz scan revealed a hole in the outside of the radiator, and it’s not clear if the spacecraft will be able to take home two cosmonauts and an astronaut. With Russia unable to launch a backup ship until February, this could mean that the three ISS crew members don’t have lifeboats in case of an emergency. The reason has not yet been established.
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TASS and Roskosmos claim that the cause was likely “a micrometeoroid or space debris.” The hole is approximately 0.8mm in size, and the object that caused the hole of this size cannot be tracked with current technology, NASA and other space agencies said.
The space station has been hit by several debris collisions recently, including a Russian Fregat rocket stage that deviated less than a mile (0.4 km) on December 21, forcing the ISS to dodge and NASA to delay the spacewalk by a day. .
While the crew of the ISS is not in immediate danger from the leak, they are dependent on the spacecraft to be able to return home in the event of another emergency at the complex. The crew members were supposed to return home in March, but if necessary, the rescue Soyuz could be ready in February, two to three weeks earlier, Roscosmos said.
Sending injured crew members home on the SpaceX Dragon would require a separate launch and a separate set of spacesuits, which are usually custom-made for astronauts or cosmonauts before launch.
Elizabeth Howell is co-author of Why Am I Taller? (will open in a new tab)? (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), space medicine book. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or facebook (will open in a new tab).