Russian space agency Roscosmos is deciding whether it needs to send a rescue spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) to bring home two Russians and a NASA astronaut, after the Soyuz capsule that brought them there suffered a massive coolant leak, U.S. newspaper The Washington Post reported on Dec. 22.
Another Soyuz spacecraft could be ready to fly up without any people on board sometime in February, a few weeks before the crew is set to return in March.
The crew that would fly home on the rescue craft would include NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and two Russian citizens, Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, who arrived at the station in September.
They were supposed to return to the Earth in the spring of 2023, but due to technical reasons, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft cannot be used for this purpose – leaving only the Soyuz spacecraft.
Working with their counterparts at NASA, officials at Roscosmos are trying to determine if the vehicle is sound enough to bring the crew home, Sergei Krikalev, the executive director of Roscosmos’s human spaceflight programs, said during a briefing on Dec. 22. If not, the Russian agency would send up another Soyuz spacecraft that was to be used for another crewed mission to retrieve the crew.
According to Roscosmos Director General Yury Borisov, this rescue operation can be conducted by Feb. 19.