Russia launches rescue ship to space station
Russia launched a rescue ship on Friday for two astronauts and NASA astronauts. NASA’s original vehicle caused a dangerous leak while parked on the International Space Station.
The new, empty Soyuz capsule should arrive at the orbital laboratory on Sunday.
The December capsule leak was blamed on a micrometeorite that punctured an external radiator, allowing coolant to escape. It seems to have happened again on the ship. A camera view showed a small hole in each spacecraft.
The Russian Space Agency has delayed the launch of a replacement Soyuz, looking for manufacturing defects. No problems were found and the agency proceeded with the capsule launch from Kazakhstan before dawn on Friday, strapping bundles of supplies to the three seats.
Given the urgent need for this capsule, two senior NASA officials traveled from the United States to directly observe the launch.
Authorities have determined that returning NASA’s Frank Rubio and Russia’s Sergei Prokopiev and Dmitri Peterin to the damaged Soyuz next month as originally planned was too risky. Cabin temperatures spiked during the return of the , potentially damaging computers and other equipment, and exposing the suit-clad crew to excessive heat.
Until the new Soyuz can be lifted, the emergency plan calls for Rubio to switch to the SpaceX crew capsule docked at the space station. It remains assigned. By reducing the number of people on board to her, Russian engineers concluded that temperatures could be kept at manageable levels.
The damaged Soyuz will return to Earth empty-handed by the end of March so engineers can examine it.
The three men had to complete a six-month mission on the Soyuz, which launched last September. They will remain in space for a year until the new capsule is ready for a crew changeover that launches in September. It was their Soyuz that launched with no one on board.
The damaged supply ship was filled with garbage and was released over the weekend to burn up in the atmosphere as originally planned.
“The Russians continue to watch both spacecraft leaks very closely,” Dana Weigel, NASA’s deputy space station program manager, told reporters earlier this week. I have… I’m trying to figure it out.”
NASA has four new crew members to launch aboard a SpaceX rocket early Monday morning from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX’s William Gerstenmaier said his four astronauts, who are due to return to Earth in a few weeks, have already inspected the Dragon capsule, which is due to return, and that “everything has been checked off.”
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