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Russia targets February 24th for Soyuz MS-22 crew rescue launch

Roscosmos pushed back the flight after one of its supply craft sprang a leak while docked with the ISS.

Handout . / reuters

Russia has set a new date for when it will send a rescue ship to the International Space Station to retrieve the three astronauts whose Soyuz return craft was compromised in December. The country’s Roscosmos space agency told AFP on Saturday it is targeting a February 24th launch for MS-23, the uncrewed Soyuz spacecraft that is scheduled to bring back cosmonauts Dmitri Petelin and Sergey Prokopyev, as well as NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, from the International Space Station.

Roscosmos delayed the mission last Monday after Progress 82, a supply ship that had been docked with the ISS since last October, began leaking coolant over the weekend. Petelin, Prokopyev and Rubio flew to the space station in September, and they were supposed to return on the same Soyuz spacecraft that brought them there. In December, however, the spacecraft sprung a leak, due to an apparent meteoroid strike. One month later, Roscosmos announced it would send a second Soyuz craft to retrieve the three astronauts. The timing of the leaks lead to some speculation that a manufacturing issue was at fault for the Soyuz leak, not an errant space rock as Roscosmos had said. Earlier this week, the agency shared images (seen above) showing the location of the coolant leak and reported micrometeoroid strike.

On Saturday, Roscosmos said it had carefully inspected the rescue ship to ensure it was undamaged and ready for flight. One day earlier, Progress 82 separated from the ISS. Per Space News, video broadcast during the undocking procedure failed to show any obvious signs of damage to the resupply craft. According to NASA, Progress 82 will initiate a deorbit burn at 10:15PM ET tonight. Provided Roscosmos doesn’t delay MS-23’s launch, the spacecraft will arrive at the ISS two days before Space X’s Crew-6 mission is scheduled to launch on February 26th. That flight will bring two NASA astronauts, a United Arab Emirates astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut to the space station.