Russia launches ship to ISS to rescue three astronauts

The Soyuz capsule was sent to the International Space Station  to finally bring home three astronauts whose return vehicle was damaged by a small meteoroid.


A Russian Soyuz spacecraft took off early Friday from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station (ISS) to return to Earth in September two Russian and one American astronauts whose capsule was damaged. The replacement MS-23 spacecraft lifted off without people on board from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, according to a live video broadcast from NASA, which operates the ISS together with the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

The takeoff and orbiting of the spacecraft “proceeded normally,” said Roscosmos in a statement, which expects it to be moored to the space station on February 26 at 01:01 GMT. The launch of this device was initially scheduled for mid-March to transport a new team of three people to the ISS.

But in the end it left empty to return the three blocked astronauts: the Russians Sergei Prokopiev and Dmitri Petelin and the American Frank Rubio. In the absence of crew to replace them, the mission of the three was extended until September, although in principle they had to return at the end of March. In total, they will spend a year in space, instead of six months.


The two Russian cosmonauts and the American astronaut had taken off at the end of September 2022 with the Soyuz MS-22. Usually, the capsules with which astronauts arrive at the ISS remain attached to the station during their entire stay in case they need an emergency evacuation. They also usually come back with the same device.

But in December, the Soyuz MS-22 experienced a coolant leak caused, according to Moscow, by the impact of a micro meteorite. This incident caused fears about the temperature that could be reached inside the ship when returning to Earth. The Russian space agency decided that it could only be used in an emergency and sent the MS-23 spacecraft as a replacement to return the crew in September.

The damaged MS-22 must be released from the ISS and return empty to Earth, a priori in early March. A similar leak occurred in mid-February on another Russian ship, on the Progress MS-21 freighter, moored to the ISS since October. This one did not have to carry passengers and was undocked last week. Roscosmos indicated on Tuesday that an “external impact” caused the leak and ruled out manufacturing errors.

new mission

In addition to the three crew members who arrived aboard the Soyuz, the ISS currently has four other passengers, members of the Crew-5 mission and who arrived with a SpaceX Dragon capsule in October 2022. The US company must send the Monday to the station for his four Crew-6 mission replacements: two NASA astronauts, one Emirati and one Russian cosmonaut.

After a transition of several days, Crew-5 will return to Earth. The ISS constitutes one of the few remaining spaces for cooperation between Moscow and Washington since the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, which began a year ago.