That compromised Russian Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft is returning to Earth – in un-crewed manner — at the end of the month. The craft experienced a coolant leak attached to the International Space Station last year, putting to question safe transport of crew members back to terra firma.
Meanwhile, cosmonauts onboard the ISS have been readying the Soyuz MS-22 to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere without crew. Payload containers have been installed in the Soyuz descent vehicle in preparation of “thermal testing” of the vehicle.
Russia’s Roscosmos reports that Dmitry Petelin, together with cosmonaut colleague Sergei Prokopiev, recently put on Sokol KV-2 spacesuits to enter and test the Soyuz MS-22 prior to its end-of-March fiery return and parachute landing to awaiting recovery crews.
Back on December 15, 2022, the external contour of the radiator of the thermal control system of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft was depressurized. Specialists later determined that the damage was purportedly caused by a micrometeoroid impact.
The vehicle’s radiator pipeline spewed its coolant out into space, compromising the overall integrity of the craft to return crew members safe and sound to Earth by keeping the interior of the Soyuz in a comfy temperature range.
As for the cause of the coolant loss, studies aided by robotic arm-mounted cameras were carried out. Up-close looks found a tiny hole in the Soyuz MS-22 radiator less than 1 millimeter in size, created by an impactor zooming through space at a speed of 7,000 meters per second, according to Russian space specialists.
In bringing back the Soyuz MS-22 descent vehicle, that process entails discarding the troubled instrument-assembly compartment of the ship – so it cannot be evaluated by hands-on experts here on Earth.
The three major components of the Soyuz are the spherical-shaped orbital module, the bell-shaped descent vehicle and the cylindrical-shaped instrument assembly module from which solar panels protrude.
Like the orbital module, the intermediate section of the instrumentation/propulsion module separates from the Soyuz descent module after the final deorbit maneuver and “burns up” in Earth’s atmosphere upon reentry.