Russia said on Wednesday it would send an empty spacecraft to the International Space Station to return three astronauts to Earth. The spacecraft will replace a damaged Soyuz capsule docked at the orbital site.
The move will extend the stay of the three cosmonauts, Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petlin of Russia and Frank Rubio of NASA, who were scheduled to return in the Soyuz. The damaged ship will return to Earth empty.
Soyuz is the only spacecraft currently in use by Russia to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station on December 14, A drizzle of white particles started Emerging from the Soyuz spacecraft docked at the orbital base Since September. The accident occurred just as Mr. Prokopyev and Mr. Petlin were about to begin their spacewalk. The spacewalk has been cancelled. The white particles were Soyuz coolant, and the leak lasted for hours until the damaged cooling loop was empty.
Since then, astronauts have used a camera at the end of a robotic arm on the space station to examine the leak, as engineers on the ground studied whether the Soyuz was still safe enough for passengers to go home.
Roscosmos, the state company that oversees Russia’s space industry, announced on Wednesday that the damaged Soyuz will return to Earth without a crew on board. The empty Soyuz variant is expected to be launched on February 20.
Roscosmos said the investigation concluded that the damage was caused by a meteorite strike.
Four other astronauts are currently aboard the International Space Station. They are brought there by Crew Dragon, a capsule built by SpaceX that carries NASA crews into orbit.
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