NASA considers rescuing Russian cosmonauts with SpaceX Dragon

SOYUZ courtesy of NASA TV-Handout via REUTERS

NASA is considering whether to offer the use of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to bring Russian cosmonauts home from the International Space Station, as reported by Reuters. This comes after a Russian capsule started leaking coolant while docked to the ISS.

NASA and its Russian counterpart Roscosmos, are investigating the cause of the leak on the external radiator of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft. The capsule was scheduled to return two Russian cosmonauts and US astronauts to earth in early 2023.

However, the leak, which affects a vital fluid used for controlling the crew cabin temperatures, may cripple the spacecraft. Russian engineers are already considering dispatching another Soyuz instead of the damaged one. The agency has said it would decide in January.

If Russia fails to launch another Soyuz, NASA may tap on SpaceX, a regular client of the space agency.

NASA spokesperson, Sandra Jones, told Reuters, “We have asked SpaceX a few questions on their capability to return additional crew members on Dragon if necessary, but that is not our prime focus at this time.”

SpaceX currently has a Dragon docked at the space station. Only the Dragon and Soyuz can deliver and fetch astronauts/cosmonauts to and from the ISS.

Possible leak sources include a meteoroid-caused puncture, space debris, or hardware failure.

Meanwhile, we reported SpaceX would end producing Crew Dragon capsules to focus on the Starship.