Liftoff of a Russian rescue craft to the International Space Station
The Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft takes off from the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on February 24, 2023.
A Russian Soyuz spacecraft took off on the night of Thursday to Friday from Kazakhstan in the direction of the International Space Station (ISS), in order to bring back to Earth next September two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut whose initial spacecraft was damaged.
The MS-23 rescue craft took off, with no one on board, from the Baikonur cosmodrome, according to a live video broadcast from NASA, which operates the space station with Russia's Roscosmos space agency.
It must moor at the SSI on the night of Saturday to Sunday.
The take-off of this device was initially scheduled for mid-March and it was to transport a new crew of three to the space station. It finally left empty in order to bring back the three passengers stranded on board the ISS: the American Frank Rubio as well as the Russians Sergei Prokopiev and Dmitri Peteline.
En l' In the absence of a crew to replace them, the latter's mission was extended until September, when they were originally due to return at the end of March. They will therefore spend a total of about a year in space, instead of six months.
They will not be the first to stay so long in the ISS, this duration having already been equaled as recently as last year.
The two Russian cosmonauts and the American astronaut took off at the end of September 2022 with the Soyuz MS-22.
The International Space Station (ISS)
The ships on board which astronauts and cosmonauts arrive at the ISS then remain docked at the station throughout their stay, in order to serve as a backup vehicle in the event of an emergency evacuation. necessary. They also leave on board the same machine.
But in December, the Soyuz MS-22 suffered a spectacular leak, due according to Moscow to the impact of a micrometeorite.
The coolant leak had raised concerns about the temperature that might be reached inside the ship upon its return to Earth.
The agency Russian spacecraft therefore decided that it could no longer be used except in the event of an emergency, and chose to send the MS-23 spacecraft as a replacement, which will bring the crew back in September.
The damaged MS-22 ship must be undocked from the ISS and returned to Earth empty, a priori at the end of next month.
European robotic arm controlled by astronaut Anna Kikina inspects the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft after the detection of a leak that has led to the cancellation of a spacewalk.
A leak similar to the December incident also affected another Russian vessel, the Progress MS-21 freighter, docked at the ISS since October in mid-February. But this one was not intended to carry passengers, and it undocked last week.
Roscosmos said Tuesday that an impact exterior had caused this leak, and ruled out a manufacturing defect.
In addition to the three crew members who came on board the Soyuz, the ISS currently has four other passengers, members of the mission called Crew-5, and arrived with a Dragon capsule from SpaceX in October 2022.
The American company must send four replacements to the station on Monday as part of of the Crew-6 mission: two NASA astronauts, an Emirati astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut. After a handover of a few days, Crew-5 will descend back to Earth.
The ISS is one of the few fields of cooperation still in progress between Moscow and Washington since the beginning of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, launched a year ago, and the international sanctions that followed.