Three occupants of the International Space Station (ISS) are in limbo after a Russian Soyuz capsule suffered a coolant leak last month. The investigation to assess its ability to navigate is still ongoing, but NASA is also considering alternative solutions to bring the crew back to Earth. And it’s possible that SpaceX could play a role.
Last week, the US space agency announced that it had
contacted SpaceX about its ability to bring additional crew members aboard Dragon in the event of an emergency, although the primary goal is to understand the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft’s post-leakage capabilities
NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin traveled aboard the Soyuz MS-22 which was due to return them to Earth in March. NASA and the Roscosmos agency are looking for the cause of the leak, which could come from a tiny meteorite.
SpaceX could send a Crew Dragon
SpaceX has successfully completed several Crew Dragon missions to the ISS. It is therefore conceivable that she could send a spacecraft to bring back the three crew members. However, SpaceX needs to make custom suits for each Crew Dragon passenger, so it’s not just about sending a spacecraft. In addition, a rescue carried out by SpaceX could have a major impact on other missions, in particular the next Crew-6 flight, which is scheduled to take off in early 2023.
The alternative could be to use the MS-22 as intended if deemed safe. Russia could also send a replacement Soyuz spacecraft.
Nasa and Roscosmos continue to conduct various technical studies and consult with other international partners on methods to safely return the Soyuz crew home under normal and emergency scenarios.
Nasa said. A decision should be made later this month.
CNET.com article adapted by CNETFrance
Picture: NASA TV