MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia said on Wednesday it would launch another Soyuz rocket on Feb. 20 to return two cosmonauts and an American astronaut from the International Space Station after their original capsule leaked coolant last month.
The leak originated from a small hole in the external coolant of the Soyuz MS-22 capsule currently docked on the International Space Station and the three crew members were scheduled to return to Earth in March.
“The flight of Sergei Prokopyev, Dmitry Petlin and Francisco Rubio to the International Space Station is being extended. They will return to Earth aboard Soyuz MS-23,” Roskosmos said.
“Soyuz MS-23 will be launched on February 20, 2023 in an unmanned mode,” Roscosmos said.
The MS-23 launch is planned for mid-March. She added that Soyuz MS-22 will descend to Earth without a crew.
Roscosmos said that the damage to the radiator pipeline was caused by a meteorite.
“The diameter of the hole is less than one millimeter,” she added.
The accident disrupted Russia’s International Space Station activities, forcing the astronauts to suspend spacewalks as officials focused on the leaky capsule, which serves as a lifeboat for the crew.
Leakage is also a problem for NASA. The US agency said last month that it was exploring whether SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft could offer an alternative flight for some ISS crew members, in the event Russia could not launch another Soyuz.
(Reporting by Reuters. Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Gareth Jones)
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