NASA discovered a hole in the Soyuz

During a visual inspection of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft, conducted with the Canadarm2 robotic manipulator, NASA specialists noticed a small hole in the radiator. It may be the site of a coolant leak from the ship’s cooling system.
Soyuz MS-22. Source: NASA

On December 14, a coolant leak occurred on the Soyuz MS-22 ship. It led to the cancellation of several planned spacewalks and raised questions about the spacecraft’s suitability to return to Earth. Roscosmos admitted that after the leak, the temperature inside the Soyuz exceeded the standard values. At the same time, the organization claims that this is not critical either for the functioning of the equipment or for the health of the cosmonauts in the event of their stay in the ship. But independent experts express different opinions about the safety of the ship.

As for the cause of the leak, Roscosmos states that most likely it was hit by a micrometeorite or a fragment of space debris, rather than a production defect. In order to identify the location of the leak and determine its nature, NASA used the Canadarm2 manipulator installed on the ISS. During the inspection carried out on December 18, specialists managed to find a small hole in the Soyuz MS-22 radiator, the color around which is different from the neighboring areas. NASA issued a statement that Roscosmos is currently studying the images to determine whether the hole was caused by a micrometeorite impact or is one of the radiator’s pre-made vents.

Another important question is how exactly the cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmytro Petelin, who arrived to ISS by the Soyuz MS-22, as well as the astronaut Frank Rubio, will return to Earth. If Roscosmos declares that the Soyuz MS-22 is still airworthy, it could raise legitimate questions from NASA. It cannot be ruled out that the American aerospace administration, for safety reasons, will not allow its astronaut to return to Earth on a damaged ship.

If Roscosmos recognizes the impossibility of using the Soyuz MS-22, then most likely it will be replaced by the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft, which was originally planned to be sent to the ISS in March 2023. In this case, it will be launched in unmanned mode and used by Prokopiev, Petelin and Rubio to return to Earth.

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