A replacement Soyuz spacecraft for three astronauts from the International Space Station arrived at the orbital complex as planned Saturday night (February 25).
Russia’s replacement Soyuz spacecraft, called MS-23, docked with the International Space Station (ISS) Saturday at 7:58 p.m. EDT (0058 GMT Sunday, Feb. 26). The rendezvous took place while the two vehicles were flying 260 miles (418 km) over northern Mongolia.
The uncrewed Soyuz MS-23, which launched Thursday (February 23) from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, will serve as the new flight for cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petlin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio. The trio’s original flight, Soyuz MS-22, developed a leak in mid-December and lost all of its coolant.
Coincidentally, NASA plans to launch soon, with more ISS crew members: The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is expected to lift off on Monday (February 27) at 1:45 a.m. EST (0645 GMT) and at Four people on board. . This event will be broadcast live here on Space.com, via www.space.com NASA TV (Opens in a new tab).
Related: Russia publishes the first pictures of the damage to the Soyuz spacecraft (photos)
Petelin, Prokopyev, and Rubio have been without a nominal spacecraft since Dec. 14, when Soyuz MS-22 caused a coolant leak. Russia is moving things around to provide a new Soyuz for the crew and has made several changes to the schedule in the past week in response to recent events.
Initially, MS-23 was supposed to launch in the spring with people on board, but as early as 2023, Russia’s Federal Space Agency Roscosmos initially chose to accelerate its launch to February 19 without people, to allow three seats for the stranded MS. -22 crew.
In the event of an emergency requiring evacuation of the ISS, Roskosmos decided that it would be possible to place the two cosmonauts in the MS-22 (two people on board would heat the spacecraft to a lower degree than three). An additional seat for Rubio could be created aboard the SpaceX Crew-5 Dragon spacecraft, NASA said, which includes four seats already occupied by other ISS Expedition 69 crew members.
Then another Russian ship, the Progress 82 motorized cargo ship, leaked its own coolant on February 11 and forced some changes in the MS-23 launch. Initially, Roscosmos said it would delay the launch until March to allow time for the investigation.
But the investigation showed that the two coolant leaks may have been unrelated micrometeor strikes, prompting Roscosmos to reschedule MS-23 again for its February 23 launch.
Meanwhile, the MS-22/MS-23 crew is expected to spend a year in space, twice their original time, to allow another Soyuz with three people aboard to serve as a relief crew. A manned Soyuz, MS-24, launch is likely in September, according to Now launch the calendar. (Opens in a new tab)
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 8:10 PM EST February 25 with news of MS-23’s successful docking.
Elizabeth Howell is co-author of “Why am I taller (Opens in a new tab)? (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book on space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @employee (Opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @employee (Opens in a new tab) or Facebook (Opens in a new tab).