NASA is considering when the time comes to “rescue” the three crew members aboard the International Space Station using a SpaceX Dragon capsuleafter the Soyuz ship where they would return once their mission was finished suffered a refrigerant leak on December 15.
Since currently Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency, has said that they will not take a decision until January about whether or not it is safe to use the capsule for reentry to Earth, and since the next spacecraft could arrive until February, NASA is considering another alternative in case neither of these two options come to fruition.
In accordance with ReutersNASA has made “several questions to SpaceX regarding its ability to send additional crew members using the Dragon if necessary“, although according to NASA spokeswoman Sandra Jones, it was not his main focus at that moment.
Yes indeed, Reuters details that it is not clear if NASA specifically asked to know the capabilities of the Crew Dragon, if the company can increase the capacity of the capsule currently attached to the station (called Endeavour) or your chances to launch a new empty vehicle automated to rescue the crew.
Endeavor seats are already reservedas it will bring home Crew-5 in early 2023, including NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina.
In the case of the affected Soyuz, named as MS-22would carry Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin, and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, all wearing Russian Sokol spacesuits, and would be an additional problem as SpaceX only launches crew members equipped with a company suit made to size.
The potential risk of not having 100% working capsules
For now, the origin of the leak in the MS-22 capsule has not yet been determined, although possible causes are still being considered. some space debris, a micrometeorite that could not be traced due to its small size or until a failure in the hardware of the ship itself.
Although this is not an immediate danger to the crew aboard the ISS, represents an imminent risk in case the facility must be evacuated for any reason, three people would be left without the possibility of making a safe trip back to Earth.