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SOYUZ MS-23 RETURN TO EARTH, Sept 27, 2023, Kazakhstan, undock 3:55 am ET/land 7:17 am ET

Update, September 22: NASA has announced its plans to cover the September 27 return of this crew — Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitri Petelin and Frank Rubio — that launched on Soyuz MS-22 but is returning on Soyuz MS-23. The Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft leaked all its coolant into space and had to be replaced. Soyuz MS-23 was launched empty to serve as their ride home.

Rubio is the first U.S. astronaut to spend an actual year in space. Others came close (up to 355 days), but he’s the first to make it to 365 days and will have spent 371 days by the time of his return. He, Prokopyev and Petelin will be third in line for longest continuous duration in space. Only two Russians, Sergey Avdeyev with 380 days and Valeriy Polyakhov with 438 days, have stayed longer on a single mission.

NASA TV coverage is as follows:

  • 12:20 am ET, hatch closing (NASA TV begins at midnight)
  • 3:55 am ET, undocking (NASA TV begins 3:30 am ET)
  • 7:17 am ET, landing in Kazakhstan (NASA TV begins 6:00 am ET for the deorbit burn at 6:24 am ET and landing)

Original Entry: Roscosmos announced on March 24, 2023 that Soyuz MS-23 will return to Earth on September 27, 2023. On March 29, NASA ISS program manager Joel Montalbano confirmed the date.

Russia had to reschedule its crew launches to ISS because of the December 2022 coolant leak on Soyuz MS-22.  The decision was made that Soyuz MS-22 was not safe to return its crew — Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitri Petelin and NASA’s Frank Rubio — to Earth, so the next spacecraft, Soyuz MS-23, would have to be launched empty to bring them home.

The crew that should have launched in March 2023 on Soyuz MS-23 — Oleg Kononenko, Nikolai Chub and NASA’s Loral O’Hara — would have to wait until Soyuz MS-24.

Roscosmos spent many weeks deciding when Soyuz MS-24 would launch. The decision would affect how much longer the Prokopyev crew had to extend their mission beyond the original 6 months (they were to return in March). Ultimately, Roscosmos decided to maintain the original crew cadence, with the Prokopyev crew remaining until the next regularly scheduled crew rotation in September 2023. So they are pulling a double-shift, 12 months instead of 6 months.

Under the plan announced in TASS on March 24, Soyuz MS-24 with the Kononenko crew will launch on September 15 and the Prokopvev crew will return on Soyuz MS-23 on September 27.

Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio will have spent 371 days in space by then and Rubio will set a record for the longest continuous spaceflight by an American, surpassing Mark Vande Hei who spent 355 days on ISS in 2021-2022. Like Rubio and his crewmates, Vande Hei and Petr Dubrov pulled a double-shift after Russia decided to send two tourists to the ISS on the spacecraft that should have taken them back to Earth.

Prokopyev and Petelin will not set a record for Russia, but will eclipse two colleagues, Vladmir Titov and Musa Manavov, who spent 366 days on the Mir space station in 1987-1988. They still will be behind Sergei Avdeyev at 380 days in 1988-1989, and all-time record-holder Valeri Polyakov who spent a continuous 438 days on Mir in 1994-1995.

(Soyuz MS-22 returned to Earth empty on March 28, 2023. Soyuz MS-23 was launched empty and docked with the ISS in February 2023.)


September 27, 2023
12:01 am - 11:00 pm