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Soyuz leaks may preserve astronaut, cosmonauts on house station for a 12 months

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The launch of a alternative spacecraftto retrieve a NASA astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts from the Worldwide Area Station after their ship suffered an enormous coolant leak late final 12 months “is underneath evaluation,” NASA stated in an announcement Wednesday night as engineers work to determine the reason for a leak affecting a second Russian spacecraft.

Earlier this week, after discovering the second leak on a Russian cargo ship that doesn’t fly folks, Russian house company officers stated they had been pushing the launch of the alternative craft to March in order that to provide them extra time to analyze the issue.

However in its assertion Wednesday NASA didn’t put a date on when the alternative ship can be despatched to the house station and stated that it was working with engineers from Roscosmos, the Russian house company, “to analyze the reason for coolant loss from each” ships. It added that “the crew is constant with regular house station operations and scientific analysis.”

The crew — NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin — launched to the Worldwide Area Station in September in what was speculated to be a six-month keep, with a return journey set for March.

Now it’s unclear when the crew will return.

The primary setback got here in December, when the crew’s Russian-made Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft sprang a leak, spewing coolant used to maintain the spacecraft at a snug temperature. Final month, Roscosmos stated the leak was possible brought on by a micrometeoroid strike — not a producing defect, a conclusion that NASA stated it supported. Given the injury, Roscosmos determined it might be unsafe for the astronauts to fly residence in that ship, as initially deliberate. As a substitute, it stated it might ship up a recent spacecraft as a alternative.

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That launch was speculated to occur Feb. 19. However then on Saturday, Russian engineers on the mission management middle outdoors of Moscow found that one other spacecraft — this one a cargo ship known as Progress 82 — additionally had a coolant leak.

Now that two spacecraft have had related issues inside months of one another, NASA officers and their Russian counterparts are confronting new questions on what induced the leaks, if they’re associated and whether or not the alternative ship may additionally have an identical drawback.

The Progress cargo spacecraft has been hooked up to the house station since October. Because the leak was found, NASA stated it “has been aiding Roscosmos in accumulating imagery” utilizing the house station’s robotic arm.

Usually, crews rotate out after six-month stays on the house station, and Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin had been to return when a alternative crew flying the subsequent spacecraft, Soyuz MS-23, would relieve them. Since Roscosmos is now sending that spacecraft as a rescue car, the alternative crew gained’t fly till September. And so Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin can be prolonged till the brand new crew arrives.

Chatting with reporters final month, Joel Montalbano, NASA’s house station program supervisor, stated that the crew is “ready to remain till the September launch date, if that’s the case. If that launch day strikes up earlier, then they’re ready to return residence earlier.”

Officers have stated that the launch of the subsequent crew can be decided as soon as the alternative craft is launched and hooked up to the station. NASA and Roscosmos are desirous to get the alternative ship to the station as a result of it might be used as an evacuation car within the unlikely likelihood of an emergency aboard the station.

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