NASA considering SpaceX Dragon as backup plan for crew of damaged Soyuz capsule: report
NASA is considering SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule as a possible ride home for some members of the International Space Station (ISS) crew. The plan follows an incident in which a Russian Soyuz capsule experienced a coolant leak earlier this month while docked at the space station.
NASA and Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, are investigating the cause of a punctured coolant line in an external radiator of a Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft currently docked at the space station. The Soyuz MS-22 capsule is scheduled to return its crew of two cosmonauts and an American astronaut to Earth early next year.
During the incident, which occurred on December 14, a vital fluid used to regulate crew cabin temperatures on the Soyuz spacecraft was released. Engineers in Moscow are currently evaluating the possibility of launching another Soyuz capsule to retrieve the three-person crew aboard the MS-22 spacecraft.
In the event that Russia is unable to launch another Soyuz spacecraft or decides that doing so would be too risky, NASA is considering other options. One option currently being evaluated is using SpaceX’s Crew Dragon as a backup option for the damaged Soyuz crew, according to a report from Reuters.
“We have asked SpaceX some questions about their ability to return additional crew members to Dragon if needed, but that is not our primary focus at this time,” NASA spokeswoman Sandra Jones said.
While NASA is considering using SpaceX as a potential backup option for the Soyuz crew, it is not yet clear what specific capabilities NASA has sought from Crew Dragon. This includes whether SpaceX can increase the crew capacity of the Dragon already docked at the ISS or whether launching an empty capsule for a rescue mission would be a better option.
The Soyuz capsule that suffered a leak during its mission was carrying American astronaut Frank Rubio and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dimitri Petelin. The crew traveled into space in September and are expected to return to Earth in March 2023.
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NASA considers SpaceX Dragon as backup plan for damaged Soyuz capsule crew: report