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Soyuz Spacecraft Leaks Coolant – Russia Launches Rescue Ship to Space Station

A new, empty Soyuz capsule should arrive at the orbiting lab on Sunday after a spacecraft that flew three cosmonauts to the International Space Station and returned them to Earth leaked coolant earlier this week. The leak prompted two cosmonauts to cancel a planned spacewalk and could affect a return flight by the three astronauts.

NASA TV images showed white particles resembling snowflakes streaming out of the back of Soyuz MS-22 early Thursday. It sparked fears that the leak might be caused by a micrometeorite that struck one of the external radiators in the Soyuz.

The leak forced the cancellation of a spacewalk by Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin late Wednesday. It could also impact the return to Earth of NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, who arrived in the Soyuz on September’s original six-month mission.

Emergency plans call for Rubio to switch to a SpaceX crew capsule that’s docked at the station. That would reduce the temperature in the cabin to a more manageable level until the damaged Soyuz is ready to pull up next month, engineers determined.

But if the damage continues to deteriorate, the Soyuz will have to be sent back to Earth with no one aboard. Engineers will be able to examine the damaged Soyuz when it returns, Russia’s space agency Roscosmos said.

What’s more, Russia and NASA are assessing whether the leak was caused by a micrometeorite strike or some other event. If the incident is linked to a meteorite, it’s possible the station and the Soyuz would experience other changes in their telemetric parameters, said Sergei Krikalev, the director of crewed space flight programs at Roscosmos.

In the meantime, the rescue ship should reach the space station by Sunday, and a replacement Soyuz should be launched by mid-March to bring the damaged Soyuz back to Earth with no crew on board. The new Soyuz will be used for the next liftoff of a Soyuz crew capsule to the space station in September.


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