If the Soyuz MS-22 shuttle is too damaged and another model cannot be sent, perhaps Russia will have to turn to SpaceX and NASA. Discussions are ongoing.
It will be necessary to wait some time before knowing the fate reserved for the Soyuz capsule, a victim of a leak in mid-December. Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, must decide in January. If it is no longer usable, the first solution would be to send another Soyuz spacecraft to transport the astronauts to return.
SpaceX and NASA to the rescue of Roscosmos
Another lead could be American. Reuters learned on December 28 that NASA and SpaceX have started discussions to consider serving as a remedy. Three astronauts are due to return to Earth in March 2023: the American Frank Rubio and the Russians Dmitry Petelin and Sergei Prokopiev. They have been in space since September 2022.
“We have asked SpaceX a few questions about their ability to return additional crew members [to Earth with Dragon] if needed, but that is not our primary focus at this time,” spokesperson Sandra Jones said. from NASA, in a statement to Reuters. SpaceX has had the capacity to transport people since 2020.
A Crew Dragon capsule approaching the ISS. // Source: NASA Johnson
In addition to the Soyuz MS-22 capsule docked with the International Space Station (ISS), there is another spacecraft on site capable of carrying a crew: the Crew Dragon-5 shuttle. However, it seems unlikely that this machine will be used since it must in principle ensure the return of the four astronauts who arrived with it in October. These must also return in the spring of 2023.
The Crew Dragon capsule was thought out and designed to be able to transport up to seven people at once. But in fact, only four seats on board are mounted and used. The trips organized on behalf of NASA never go beyond four astronauts, one way or the other. The test flights even accommodated only two people.
Another avenue would be to send an additional Crew Dragon capsule into space, in place of the anchor point occupied by the Soyuz MS-22. It would be sent empty and automatically maneuver to the ISS — a capability the Crew Dragon already has. She would then board the three people and return to Earth, like a classic mission.