The Russian Soyuz spacecraft took off at night from Thursday to Friday from Kazakhstan towards the International Space Station, in order to return two Russian astronauts and an American astronaut to Earth next September.
• Also read: International Space Station: Russia will send a rescue ship to bring back three crew members
The MS-23 rescue craft, without anyone on board, took off from the Baikonur cosmodrome, according to a live video feed from NASA, which operates the space station (ISS) with Russian space agency Roscosmos.
You must dock with the International Space Station overnight, Saturday through Sunday.
Tentatively scheduled for launch in mid-March, a new three-person crew was to be flown to the space station. It was finally left blank so he could bring back the three stranded passengers aboard the International Space Station: American Frank Rubio as well as Russians Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petline.
And in the absence of a crew to replace them, the latter’s assignment was extended into September, as their return was originally scheduled for the end of March. So they will spend a total of about a year in space, instead of six months.
They won’t be the first to stay on the International Space Station for a long time, that duration has only been equaled in the past year.
Two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut took off at the end of September 2022 on the Soyuz MS-22.
The ships on board that astronauts and cosmonauts arrive on board to the International Space Station remain docked at the station for the duration of their stay, in order to be able to act as a backup vehicle in case an emergency evacuation is necessary. They also leave on the same craft.
But in December, Soyuz MS-22 suffered a spectacular leak, according to Moscow, caused by the impact of a small meteor.
The coolant leak raised concerns about the temperature that could be reached inside the ship upon its return to Earth.
So the Russian Space Agency decided that it could only be used in emergency situations, and chose to send the MS-23 spacecraft as an alternative, which would return the crew in September.
The damaged MS-22 ship must be ejected from the International Space Station and returned to Earth empty, in advance of the end of next month.
A leak similar to the December incident also affected another Russian spacecraft, the Progress MS-21 cargo ship, which has been docked at the International Space Station since October in mid-February. But this one was not intended to carry passengers, and it was dismissed last week.
Roscosmos said Tuesday that an “external influence” had caused the leak, and ruled out a manufacturing defect.
Crew take off 6
In addition to the three crew members who came aboard the Soyuz, the International Space Station currently has four other passengers, members of the mission called Crew-5, who will arrive with the SpaceX Dragon capsule in October 2022.
The American company is to send its four replacements to the space station on Monday, as part of the Crew-6 mission: two NASA astronauts, an Emirati astronaut, and a Russian cosmonaut.
After delivery for a few days, Crew-5 will descend to Earth.
The International Space Station is one of the few areas of cooperation still underway between Moscow and Washington since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which began a year ago, and the ensuing international sanctions.