Russia Ready to Rescue Astronauts at Space Station

Aleksandra Sova /
Aleksandra Sova /

Russia is planning to launch a rescue vessel to the International Space Station next month. They hope to bring home three crew members who are stuck in orbit because their original capsule was hit by a meteoroid.

The stuck vessel is Soyuz MS-22, it has a major leak that is spraying radiator coolant into space and it kept two cosmonauts from doing a planned spacewalk.

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, indicated that the meteoroid strike did not cause an immediate threat to the crew of the space station, but it has raised concerns about whether the whole crew could return to Earth if there was an emergency situation.

The leak resulted in higher cabin temperatures and the MS-22 was considered unfit, which left only one operational escape pod which was docked on the ISS – A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Now there are seven people onboard the space station, but the SpaceX capsule only has four seats.

Roscosmos has decided to plan for a launch of the Soyuz MS-23 in February so it can be used to transport Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and US astronaut Francisco Rubio back to Earth.

The danger is that a critical situation could happen on the ISS in the weeks before this launch, if that happened the damaged Soyuz MS-22 would be considered to rescue the crew.

Micrometeoroids are a significant danger to human spaceflight. They hurl around the Earth at about 17,000mph, which is much faster than the speed of a bullet. The diameter of the micrometeoroid that hit the docked Soyuz was tiny, creating a hole in the capsule that was just 1mm in diameter. But even that small of a hole caused significant damage. Some of the images of the craft show white particles resembling snowflakes streaming out of the rear.