A replacement Soyuz spacecraft carrying three International Space Station astronauts arrived at the orbital complex on Saturday night (Feb. 25) as scheduled.
The Russian Soyuz spacecraft, known as MS-23, docked with the International Space Station (ISS) at 7:58 p.m. EST Saturday (0058 GMT Sunday, February 26). The encounter occurred when the two spacecraft were flying 260 miles (418 kilometers) above northern Mongolia.
Launched Thursday (Feb. 23) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the unassuming Soyuz MS-23 will serve as the new ride home for cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio. The trio’s original ride, Soyuz MS-22, suffered a leak in mid-December and lost its cool.
Coincidentally, NASA plans to launch its own launch soon, and with ISS crew members: The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is expected to lift off Monday (Feb. 27) at 1:45 a.m. EST (0645 GMT) with four people aboard. . The event will be streamed live here on Space.com NASA Television (opens in new tab).
Related: Russia Releases First Images of Leaked Soyuz Spacecraft Damage (PHOTOS)
Petelin, Prokopyev and Rubio have been nominally without the spacecraft since 14 December when Soyuz MS-22 developed a coolant leak. Russia is moving things along to make the new Soyuz available to the crew and has made several schedule changes over the past week in response to recent events.
Originally, MS-23 was supposed to launch in the spring with people on board, but in early 2023, the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos chose to advance its launch to February 19 without people to allow three seats for the stranded MS. – 22 crew members.
Roscosmos determined that in an emergency requiring an ISS evacuation, it would be possible to place two astronauts in the MS-22 craft (two people heat the spacecraft to less than three). NASA said an additional seat for Rubio could be created aboard the SpaceX Crew-5 Dragon spacecraft, four of which are already occupied by the rest of the ISS Expedition 69 crew.
Then another Russian craft, a robotic Progress 82 cargo plane, developed its own coolant leak on February 11 and forced some changes to MS-23’s launch. At first, Roscosmos said it would delay the launch until March to allow investigation time.
But an investigation revealed that the two coolant leaks may have been unrelated micrometroid attacks, prompting Roscosmos to reschedule MS-23 for a February 23 launch.
Meanwhile, the MS-22/MS-23 crew is expected to spend a year in space, doubling their original time, and allowing another Soyuz with three people to serve as a relief crew. The Soyuz crew, MS-24, is slated to launch in September Space Travel Start Calendar Now (opens in new tab)
Editor’s note: This story was updated on February 25 at 8:10pm EST with news of the successful MS-23 takedown.
Elizabeth Howell is co-editor of “Why am I tall? (opens in new tab)?” (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @HowellSpace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) Or Facebook (opens in new tab).