Coolant leak delays return of Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft

NASA and the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos are working jointly in response to the coolant leak that occurred on the Soyuz MS-22 in December.

Research and maintenance activities aboard the International Space Station continue into January 2023 as engineers and managers discuss Soyuz capabilities and potential next steps in response to the leak in Soyuz MS-22’s external cooling loop. [1]


In December 2022, a sizeable coolant leak from one of Russia's Soyuz crew spacecraft docked to the International Space Station forced cosmonauts to cancel a spacewalk (extravehicular activity – EVA). The leak was traced back to the coolant system of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft. Described as “fairly substantial” by a NASA spokesperson, the leak was first detected on December 15 at 00:45 GMT. [2]


NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin were travelling aboard the Soyuz MS-22 that was to return them to Earth in March 2023. NASA and Roscosmos are investigating the cause of the leak. [3] With integrated crews on their respective spacecraft, NASA and Roscosmos are working jointly on any decisions related to crew safety, including their transportation. A final decision on the path forward is expected in January 2023. As a part of the analysis, NASA has also reached out to SpaceX about its capability to return additional crew members aboard Dragon in the event of an emergency, although the primary focus is on understanding the post-leak capabilities of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft. [1]


Video of the Soyuz spacecraft leak:







Credits image: NASA (oct 2022). The Soyuz MS-22 crew ship is pictured docked to the Rassvet module of the International Space Station.