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MS-22 Crew Rescue Mission Confirmed by NASA and Roscosmos

NASA and Roscosmos have officially confirmed Soyuz MS-23 will launch unmanned as a crew rescue mission following the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft being declared not safe for crew for re-entry.

  • More details coming soon...
Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Wed Jan 11 2023Written by Zac Aubert

NASA and Roscosmos have officially confirmed Soyuz MS-23 will launch unmanned as a crew rescue mission following the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft being declared not safe for crew for re-entry.

The Situation

Cosmonauts Sergey Prokopiev and Dmitry Petelin and NASA Astronaut Francisco Rubio launched on Soyuz MS-22 on September 21, 2022 at 13:54 UTC from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

On December 15th, 2022 at 12:45 UTC a "visible stream of flakes" was observed emanating from the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft at the same time as a loss of pressure was alerted in the external radiator cooling loop. After multiple days of inspection using the stations robotic arms, preliminary information is something left a 0.8mm (0.031in) diameter hole in the external cooler radiator located on the service module of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft. Roscosmos believes the leak in the radiator occurred due to external mechanical damage.

With the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft deemed not safe to fly for crew, Cosmonauts Sergey Prokopiev and Dmitry Petelin and NASA Astronaut Francisco Rubio are stranded on the ISS. A critical situation as no person is to be on the ISS without a spacecraft they can board to evacuate incase of emergency with the ability to return home should they not be able to return to the ISS.

During official update on January 11th, NASA’s Joel Montalbano and Roscosmos Sergei Krikalev confirmed that should an emergency situation arise on station prior to the implementation of their solution. The Soyuz MS-22 Crew would "fight" to save as much of station as possibly by closing hatches, but if had to evacuation would use the damaged Soyuz craft. Montalbano also shared there is option looking at of moving 1 or more of the crew to the currently docked Crew Dragon for evacuation in place of its normal cargo, even though no extra chairs or suits would be available.

The Solution

Soyuz MS-23

Roscosmos will launch Soyuz MS-23 unmanned providing the Soyuz MS-22 crew a safe way home. Soyuz MS-23 was scheduled to launch with 3 Russian Cosmonauts in March but teams on the ground have worked to prepare the spacecraft and rocket for launch early. Roscosmos is now targeting NET February 20th for launch.

During the Q&A period of the NASA Roscosmos update, Roscosmos confirmed that they do not plan on cancelling any planned missions and that Soyuz MS-23's crew will move to the right and fly on Soyuz MS-24.

Soyuz MS-22

The damaged Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft will remain docked to the ISS until the arrival of Soyuz MS-23 so crew will be able to move cargo and supplied to the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft. Prior to undocking the crew will load non temperature sensitive cargo onto the damaged Soyuz spacecraft for its attempt to return home. Internal temperatures of the spacecraft are expected to exceed high 30'C.

"we have some results of experiments we usually return back on Soyuz, some equipment we would like to investigate to improve it for future flight, things like this we will return back, things that are not temperature sensitive. We know we already issued with medial community there is no reason to try to return back frozen blood sampled because in high temperature it may melt and it will spoil result of experiment" for of on the damaged Soyuz spacecraft. The Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft will then undock from the ISS in an unmanned mode and attempt to return home. - Sergei Krikalev, Roscosmos

Because the thermoregulation system is damaged, re-entry and landing may not be successful.

The Soyuz MS-22 Crew mission will be extended approx 5-6 months until the Soyuz MS-24 crew arrives.

The Impact

Safety is the number one priority in space, that is why Roscosmos is moving Soyuz MS-23 up but this will have an impact on the future schedule of the ISS.

The Soyuz spacecraft is only able to stay on orbit for 6 months, so with Soyuz MS-23 going up a month early, the entire Russian ISS schedule will now have to shift forward by approx. 1 month.

Future Visiting Spacecrafts : NASA SpaceX Crew 6, AX-2, SpaceX CRS-27 and more

NASA and Roscosmos have stated now that a final decision has been made on the rescue of the Soyuz MS-22 crew they will take a couple weeks to look at how the future Crew and Cargo schedules will be effected.

Emergency Spacecraft On Standby

During the Q&A period of the NASA Roscosmos update, NASA’s Joel Montalbano and Roscosmos Sergei Krikalev responded to my question about history and future possibility of having an extra emergency crew spacecraft on station or available on the ground for rapid launch availability.

Montalbano shared that once Boeing Starliner comes online NASA is looking to have 1 SpaceX Crew Dragon and 1 Boeing Starliner crew missions each year. They are in the process of looking at

"sometype of launch on need scenario we can put together once we have two vehicles regularly visiting space station" - Joel Montalbano, NASA

Krikalev shared "we actually for long time discuss that we need to have rescue or replacement Soyuz incase of emergency being able to in expedited mode and for while we even were thinking it good to have Soyuz on ground ready to fly and requirement was to have ready to fly in 45 days, but to have Soyuz that is sitting on ground and going to fly in nominal mode that it wouldn't probably be smart idea its easier to every time Soyuz is ready we are sending it up. Especially when we had 4 Soyuz flying every year its was easier to expedited next Soyuz and use it as replacement vehicle rather than having one backup Soyuz just sitting on the ground from year to year for this very unlikely scenario." - Sergei Krikalev, Roscosmos


Watch Soyuz MS-23 and NASA SpaceX Crew 6 launch LIVE on The Launch Pad Youtube Channel in February