The mission to retrieve three astronauts from the soon-to-be retiring International Space Station was delayed after a second leak was detected on a Soyuz spacecraft docked with the station in zero gravity. Russia’s space agency Roscosmos is now investigating a possible cause of the issue.
The Soyuz MS-23 vessel was supposed to launch on February 20 with the mission to retrieve Frank Rubio, Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin. However, due to a leak, the launch was pushed back to March 10.
Yury Borisov, the head of Roscosmos, said that the mission’s launch was postponed to March 10. He noted that a team was investigating the issue with the Progress MS-21 cargo vessel’s cooling system that was earlier scheduled to undock from the ISS on Feb. 18.
A Soyuz capsule was to launch and dock with the ISS on February 20. It would then function as a rescue vessel. It was supposed to dock with the ISS two days later. In December 2022, a leak developed in the vessel’s coolant.
According to Borisov, photos showed that American crew members used a robot arm to inspect the external damage to the cooling system of the docked module of the ISS on December 15.
The photos showed a small hole, which Borisov said might have been caused by space debris or a meteoroid. Russia’s space agency noted that the damage was not a threat to the safety of the crew members, which included three Americans, three Russians and one Japanese.
Since a new Soyuz capsule is currently in development, the astronauts who were supposed to replace them will have to wait until the summer or fall to get on board. This could push their mission to almost a year.