Here’s what we know and don’t know about the damaged Soyuz spacecraft

Zoom in / A European robotic arm is investigating Soyuz MS-22 after the spill on Wednesday night.

NASA TV

First A The Soyuz spacecraft began leaking coolant Undeterred Wednesday night, flight controllers at Roscosmos, NASA and other international space station partners are closely analyzing data from the incident.

Although there was no immediate danger to the seven astronauts aboard the space station, it was one of the most serious incidents in the history of the orbiting laboratory, which has been continuously occupied for nearly a quarter of a century. Among the most pressing questions: Is the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft safe to fly back to Earth? If not, when will the replacement Soyuz MS-23 be able to fly aloft? In the event of an emergency, what would the three crew members who were about to head home on MS-22 do in the meantime?

After the incident NASA offered no explanation and only released one Very mild upgrade on its blog. But there is a lot going on behind the scenes, and this story will attempt to summarize what is known and unknown at this point.

What do you know?

Roscomos was never able to stop the leakage of the external cooling loop, so the leakage only stopped when there was no coolant. Immediately, Russian flight controllers tried to use a European robotic arm attached to the Russian wing of the station to monitor the back of the Soyuz where the leak occurred. This 11 meter arm does not provide conclusive data.

As a result, NASA will use the 17.6-meter-long Canadarm2—also known as the Space Station Remote Manipulation System—to take a closer look at the Soyuz spacecraft. The visual inspection, likely to take place over the weekend, is expected to provide definitive information on the source of the leak, its cause and whether other components of the Soyuz spacecraft were damaged. To facilitate this work, NASA will delay Monday’s planned spacewalk by astronauts Frank Rubio and Josh Cassada.

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In other diagnostic work, Roscosmos tested the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft’s thrusters early Friday morning to determine if there were any problems with its propulsion system. This test, according to sources, was nominal.

The biggest concern, however, is the overheating of the flight computers on board the Soyuz spacecraft. They are used to calculate a precise entry for the Soyuz to ensure a landing near the rescue forces in a specific area of ​​Kazakhstan. Without flight computers, the process must be done manually. This is possible but not optimal as the area where Soyuz can land is vast.

During the thruster test on Monday morning, the flight computer overheated but did not exceed the temperature limit, a source said. There was a speculative report in the Russian press that the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft reached an internal temperature of 50 degrees Celsius, but Roscosmos said This is not accurate.

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