The Russian space capsule affected by a refrigerant leak returns safely to Earth

A Russian space capsule has returned safely to Earth without a crew, months after suffering a coolant leak in orbit.

The Soyuz MS-22 was damaged in December while attached to the International Space Station.

Russian space officials attributed the leak to a small meteoroid that punctured the spacecraft’s external radiator. They launched an empty replacement capsule last month to serve as a lifeboat for the crew.

The damaged capsule touched down safely under a scratched parachute in the Kazakhstan steppes on Tuesday, touching down on schedule at 5:45 p.m. local time about 91 miles southeast of Zhezkazgan under clear blue skies.

Space Station Kazakhstan Russia
A helicopter flies over the uncrewed Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft after it landed (Roscosmos State Space Corporation via AP)

Space officials determined it would be too risky to bring NASA’s Frank Rubio and Russia’s Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin back to the Soyuz in March as originally planned, as cabin temperatures would rise without refrigerant, potentially damaging computers and other equipment, and expose the crew. to excessive heat.

All three launched in September for what should have been a six-month mission on the International Space Station.

They are now scheduled to return to Earth in September in a new Soyuz that arrived at the space outpost last month with no one on board, meaning the trio will spend a year in orbit.

Also at the station are NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, Sultan Alneyadi of the United Arab Emirates and Andrey Fedyaev of Russia.

A similar refrigerant leak was detected in February on the Russian Progress MS-21 cargo ship docked at the space outpost, raising suspicions of a manufacturing fault.

The Russian state space corporation Roscosmos ruled out any flaws after verification, concluding that both incidents were due to meteor strikes.


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