In this photo released by Roskosmos, an empty Soyuz MS-23 capsule lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on February 24, 2023.
Baikonur (Kazakhstan) – The Russian Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with the Soyuz MS-23 spaceship, this time without a crew. In the role of a rescue ship, it is heading to the International Space Station (ISS) to replace the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft, damaged by a micrometeorite. The ship separated from the third stage of the launch vehicle and reached orbit. It is scheduled to land at the ISS on February 26, reported reporters from the Space Flight Control Center.
Soyuz MS-23 is a replacement vessel for the damaged Soyuz MS-22, which was supposed to get two Russian cosmonauts and one American astronaut out of orbit on Earth in March. Due to the incident, their mission will probably be extended until autumn.
Russian cosmonauts Sergei Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio were to use the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft to return to Earth in March. However, a micrometeorite hit it in December, and Russian officials concluded that higher temperatures inside the ship due to a coolant leak could make it unsafe to use. They therefore decided to launch a new Soyuz MS-23 ship so that the crew would have a rescue craft available in case of an emergency. But it is traveling empty in order to speed up the launch, so the next crew will have to wait until the next ship is ready.
Prokopjev, Petelin and Rubio will therefore have to stay on the station a few months longer, which may extend their mission for almost a year. The American NASA participated in all discussions and agreed to this plan.
In the materials of the Russian space agency Roskosmos for today's launch, according to the Interfax agency, it is stated that the Soyuz MS-23 will remain in orbit for 215 days, and therefore the expedition of the crew damaged ship MS-22 will be extended until September 29.
In addition to Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio, the space station is now also home to NASA astronauts Nicole Anuapu Mann and Josh Cassada, Russia's Anna Kikin and Japan's Koichi Wakata. The four were transported to the ISS last October by SpaceX's Crew Dragon.
Soyuz MS-23, according to TASS, is carrying almost 430 kilograms of cargo to the ISS, including water, food and clothing for the crew, as well as medical supplies examination, equipment for scientific experiments, means for cleaning the station and for checking the cleanliness of the air.