The Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft, on which the Soyuz MS-22 crew members with a faulty thermal control system will return, has docked with the International Space Station, RIA Novosti correspondent reports from the Mission Control Center near Moscow, where the docking is being broadcast.
“There is a touch, there is a mechanical grip,” the announcer at the MCC said.
The Soyuz-2.1a rocket with the ship was launched from Baikonur at 3.24 Moscow time on February 24. The flight of the spacecraft to the station after launching into orbit proceeded according to the traditional two-day scheme.
It is planned that the Soyuz MS-22 crew — Russian cosmonauts Sergei Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin, as well as American astronaut Frank Rubio — will return on the new ship on September 27, 2023. Soyuz MS-23 will stay in orbit for 215 days, and the expedition of Prokopiev, Petelin and Rubio will last more than 370 days in total and will be a record in the history of the ISS.
The Soyuz MS-22 cooling system stopped working after its radiator was damaged by a micrometeorite on December 15, 2022. Currently, the temperature in the ship is maintained with the help of additional cooling from the main system of the station.
When landing on the Soyuz MS-22, the space inside the ship could become critically hot, so it was decided to return the astronauts on the next ship, which was sent without a crew. Instead, 429 kilograms of additional cargo was put into it, which will be needed to extend the mission.
The astronauts will unload the new ship and then prepare it for their return to Earth. The chairs of Prokopyev and Petelin will be transferred to it from the Soyuz MS-23, and Rubio’s lodgement will be removed from Crew Dragon. It was installed there in case another abnormal situation occurs before the arrival of the new ship to the ISS, which will require urgent evacuation. Thus, two astronauts would not heat the ship as much as a full-fledged crew.
Due to the fact that the mission was extended, almost the entire Russian program “moved out” for six months. The next crew – Russians Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub with an American Loral O’Hara – were transferred to the Soyuz MS-24 in the fall of 2023. The flight of the Belarusian cosmonaut was also postponed for half a year. The scientific program will not suffer. Astronauts at the station will work on the experiments of the next crews and complete their program of spacewalks, some of which were rescheduled after depressurization.