Sergei Krikalev, head of the human spaceflight initiative at Russia’s Roscosmos, told reporters during a press conference organized by the US space agency that the damage was being assessed.
The exact method of getting the spacecraft’s crew back to Earth is still up in the air. Options include sending another Soyuz to fetch them, or perhaps less likely, sending them back in the leaky capsule without its coolant.
If the former, a scheduled launch of another Soyuz capsule from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in mid-March 2023 could be moved early and launched without a crew if a thermal analysis determines how hot it will be inside the cabin. determines that the MS-22 is unsuitable for crewed flight.
“temperature [on the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft] Has been stable and hasn’t been over 30C recently. Today, we have no fears, primarily about the lives of the crew on the ISS,” said Joel Montalbano, NASA’s International Space Station program manager, who was also on the call.
“After air tubes from the Russian sector were brought there, the temperature has stabilized and the temperature regime is being maintained by ventilators,” he said.
“They’re looking at the end of February to send up the next Soyuz vehicle,” Montalbano said.
In such a scenario, the crewless spacecraft would return empty and be replaced by another Soyuz vehicle.
The cause of the leak is still a mystery
NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Petelin and Sergei Prokopyev were delivered to the ISS by the MS-22 in September this year.
There are now seven people aboard the space station, but if MS-22 is declared unsafe, the ISS will only have a “lifeboat” that can accommodate four people if it needs to be evacuated.