After the recent leak of the Russian Soyuz capsule, anchored to the ISS, NASA asked SpaceX about the possibility of bringing back astronauts from the ISS with the Dragon capsule, already imagined by the Americans.
The interrogation is part of a joint mission between NASA and Roscosmos to rescue astronaut Frank Rubio and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin, as the troubled Russian capsule lacks proper rescue facilities.
A solution considered by the two agencies is to place the Dragon capsules in place of the Soyuz MS-22. “As part of the review, NASA also contacted SpaceX about its ability to return additional crew aboard Dragon if needed in an emergency, although the primary focus is on understanding the capabilities. Soyuz MS-22 post-leak,” the NASA wrote in a December 30 blog post.
A recent Reuters report said the same, but NASA is now confirming that it is considering using a Dragon as an MS-22 rescue. “We have asked SpaceX a few questions about their ability to return additional crew to Dragon if needed, but that is not our primary focus at this time,” NASA spokeswoman Sandra Jones said in a statement. statement to Reuters published on Wednesday (28).
Another option would be for Roscosmos to send a replacement Souyz. However, such a mission could not be launched until February, according to information from Sergei Krikalev, head of the Yuri Gagarin cosmonaut training center, near Moscow, during a NASA press conference on 22 December.
“Our next crew (…) was supposed to fly in mid-March,” Krikalev said, adding that at the very least a new Soyuz could be “sent a little earlier (…) which we can do now”.
Roscosmos is still investigating the cause of the leak and planning how to fix it this month. Russian state news agency TASS said on December 27 that the leak was caused by “external mechanical damage”, although it remains unclear whether a meteoroid or space debris was to blame.
Whatever the cause of the leak, the damaged Soyuz spacecraft poses a significant safety concern for the MS-22 crew, Rubio, Petelin and Prokopyev. Tommaso Sgobba, executive director of the International Association for the Advancement of Space Security (IAASS) and former head of spaceflight safety at the European Space Agency, told Space.com that the Soyuz leak was a significant risk.
“It would probably be the first time the space station hasn’t had a full lifeboat capability,” Sgobba said. “That’s my personal feeling, but if it’s true, we have a big problem on the ISS. We’re missing the crew escape system.
A potential obstacle to using a Dragon as a lifeboat is the spacesuits the MS-22 crew wore; The SpaceX capsules are designed to work in tandem with custom SpaceX spacesuits, while the MS-22 crew departed for the ISS in Russian Sokol spacesuits.
SpaceX has yet to take a position on the possibility of sending a Dragon capsule to the ISS to replace the beleaguered Soyuz MS-22.
With information from Space.com
Featured Image: NASA TV
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