Three visitors to the International Space Station are waiting for rescue due to a serious problem with the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft, which suddenly leaked coolant due to a hole in the body. This incident called into question the suitability of the spacecraft for the safe return of the crew to Earth. The investigation of the incident continues, but NASA is already thinking about how to return the crew unharmed. It is quite possible that SpaceX can play the role of a rescuer.
Last week, NASA said it had approached SpaceX about the possibility of returning additional crew members aboard Crew Dragon, in case of an emergency. SpaceX has not yet responded to the request, at least publicly.
NASA astronaut Francisco Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin flew to the ISS on Soyuz MS-22 last year. The trio is scheduled to return to Earth in March 2023. While NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos are checking the cause of the heat exchanger leak due to the accident, the crew is forced to remain in orbit. In theory, the leak occurred due to damage to the body by a tiny meteorite.
SpaceX successfully sends Crew Dragon missions to the ISS. It can be assumed that the company can send a rescue spacecraft equipped to return three crew members to Earth. However, there is one obstacle – SpaceX produces customized suits for its Dragon crews, so it’s not as simple as just sending a spacecraft and evacuating people. The rescue flight could also have a major impact on the next planned missions to the ISS, such as Crew-6, scheduled for early 2023.
NASA and Roscosmos hope that after the investigation, Soyuz MS-22 will be recognized as safe for use. As an alternative, another Soyuz spacecraft will be sent for the astronaut and cosmonauts. The agencies are expected to make a final decision on the rescue as early as this month.
According to NASA
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