Canadarm2 To Take a Look at Progress MS-21 as Russia Postpones Soyuz MS-23

Canadarm2 To Take a Look at Progress MS-21 as Russia Postpones Soyuz MS-23

NASA and its Russian counterpart Roscosmos are using the Canadarm2 robotic arm to take a look at Russia’s Progress MS-21 cargo spacecraft to help determine why all its coolant leaked into space on Saturday.  Yesterday the head of Roscosmos decided to delay the launch of Soyuz MS-23 to sometime in March until the situation is better understood. Soyuz MS-23 is replacing Soyuz MS-22, which suffered its own coolant leak in December, and will return a Russian-American crew to Earth later this year.

Hours after a new Progress spacecraft, Progress MS-22, docked at the International Space Station Saturday morning, Progress MS-21, which has been there since October, suddenly leaked its coolant into space.

NASA refers to this spacecraft as Progress 82 or 82P because it is the 82nd Progress to resupply the ISS, but dozens of Progress spacecraft were launched before that to resupply three Soviet/Russian space stations starting in 1978 (Salyut 6, Salyut 7 and Mir).

Configuration of the International Space Station as of February 11, 2023 showing the location of the “visiting vehicles.” SpaceX’s Crew-5 Dragon and Soyuz MS-22 are the two crew spacecraft. Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus-18 and Russia’s Progress 82 (Progress MS-21) and Progress 83 (Progress MS-22) are cargo spacecraft. Illustration credit: NASA

In a post on Telegram yesterday, Roscosmos Director General Yuri Borisov said:  “Until the cause of the abnormal situation is determined, it was decided to postpone the launch of the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft in unmanned mode until March 2023.”

Today, Roscosmos said Canadarm2, a remote manipulator arm on ISS provided by Canada, will take images of Progress MS-21.

Roscosmos continues to find out the reason for the depressurization of the thermoregulatory system of the cargo ship “Progress MS-21”, which occurred on February 11 at the International Space Station.

Today, with the help of a remote manipulator, the American segment of the station is planned to inspect a possible place of damage on the outer surface of the ship.

Now the American side brings the manipulator to the “Progressu MC-21”, after which, with the help of a video camera, a photo- and video recording of the instrument-aggregate compartment of the ship will be carried out. The received materials will be transferred to Russian specialists on Earth for further analysis. (Per Google Translate)

Canadarm2 was used to image Soyuz MS-22 after it suffered its coolant leak on December 14 EST.  Although there was live video of the Soyuz MS-22 leak, which happened just as two Russian cosmonauts were about to exit the ISS for a spacewalk with coverage by NASA TV, no detailed images were released until yesterday.

NASA and Roscosmos concluded that the most likely cause of the Soyuz MS-22 leak was a micrometeoroid hitting the spacecraft’s radiator and penetrating through to the coolant loop.

With another leak in a second spacecraft in just two months, however, engineers need to make sure there is no design or manfacturing defect common to both spacecraft that could also affect Soyuz MS-23.

Russia’s Progress and Soyuz spacecraft have been in service for decades and have very similar designs. Progress is for cargo, Soyuz for crews. These are the first known coolant leaks in either spacecraft.

Borisov was not specific about the length of the Soyuz MS-23 launch delay. Launch was scheduled for February 19 EST (February 20 local time at the launch site in Kazakhstan).

Soyuz MS-23 will be launched empty so it can be used to return Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio to Earth. They flew to ISS on Soyuz MS-22, but that spacecraft is deemed unsuitable for human occupancy except in an emergency.  The crew that was to launch on Soyuz MS-23 (two Russians and an American) will have to wait for Soyuz MS-24.

Frank Rubio (NASA), Sergey Prokopyev (Roscosmos), and Dmitri Petelin (Roscosmos) flew to ISS on Soyuz MS-22, but because it is compromised, will return on Soyuz MS-23 instead.

NASA did not reply to requests for confirmation of the Soyuz MS-23 launch delay and has not posted any updates on the ISS blog since Saturday.

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