Weigh all launches: why it is impossible to postpone the launch of Soyuz MS-23

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The launch of the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft is scheduled for February 24 involuntarily, Izvestia found out. It should replace the MS-22, which was depressurized at the end of last year. It is impossible to postpone the launch – the device is already filled with fuel with aggressive components, which can damage parts of the ship. Regarding the leak from Progress MS-21, which was deorbited and flooded in the Pacific Ocean on the morning of February 19, directly opposite versions are now being considered – some experts confirm the meteoroid hypothesis, others are sure that the cosmic body could not lead to an accident .

Meeting the inevitable

On February 18, RSC Energia hosted a council of chief designers dedicated to the launch of the Soyuz MS-23 unmanned spacecraft to the International Space Station. At the council, it was decided by the commission to appoint the launch of the apparatus by the Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle from Baikonur on February 24 at 03:34 Moscow time.

As a source close to Roskosmos told Izvestia, the decision to launch the Soyuz MS-23 was not easy for the state corporation, the board members did not come to a consensus. Also, according to him, after the docking of the ship with the ISS, a decision will be made on the descent and flooding of the Soyuz MS-22, the refrigerant leak from which occurred on December 15 last year.

“It is simply impossible to fully check the Soyuz MS-23 on Earth, and there is no point in postponing the launch,” the second source explained. – Firstly, the ship is already filled with fuel, and it is impossible to store it for more than two months due to the presence of aggressive components. It is also impossible to drain this fuel due to the design. “Soyuz MS-24” is on conservation, but its launch instead of the 23rd will not give anything. If the version of some kind of manufacturing error is correct, the Soyuz MS-24 also carries a defect.

The Soyuz MS-23 flight will take place in automatic mode, as will its docking with the station. In contrast, Soyuz MS-24 is set to manned mode, the source added.

The launch was postponed due to the depressurization of the Progress MS-21 cargo ship, which occurred on February 11. Specialists from Roscosmos enterprises considered different versions of what happened. They tried to photograph the outer skin of the “truck” to confirm the version of external impact by a meteorite or space debris. However, at the moment, according to an Izvestia source from Roscosmos, the assumption has not been confirmed.

Also, the head of Roskosmos, Yuri Borisov, said that “the entire technological process of creating the ship, and in particular the thermal control system,” is being checked. As Izvestia wrote with reference to a source, a technological error in the production process is not ruled out. To date, Roskosmos has reported that experts have examined in detail the radiator on the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft, which was located in the assembly and test building of the 254th site of Baikonur, and did not reveal any damage on it.

Sergei Prokopiev and Dmitry Petelin, as well as astronaut Frank Rubio, are to return to Earth on Soyuz MS-23. It is sent to the ISS to replace the Soyuz MS-22 that depressurized at the end of last year.

Launch permutation

Refueling of the Soyuz MS-23 transport manned spacecraft with fuel components and compressed gases was completed on February 9th. The next day, it was docked with the transition compartment of the block of the third stage of the launch vehicle. On February 11, after a leak from Progress MS-21, work was suspended, but resumed a few days later.

On February 18, specialists from RSC Energia im. S.P. Korolev carried out technological operations for knurling the head fairing, prepared the assembly and protective unit for the upcoming control of launch readiness and completed the placement of delivered cargo in the ship’s compartments.

“In fact, the launch of the Soyuz MS-23 is a necessary measure, it is impossible to postpone it, otherwise the ship will have to be written off,” said Ivan Moiseev, head of the Space Policy Institute. “He was examined as carefully as possible. Cancellation of the launch will break the entire launch schedule. It must be remembered that now two Russian cosmonauts, who did not transfer their chairs to the American Dragon, are without a rescue ship. If it happened on the ISS, and such situations happened, and the crew members are in mortal danger.

Flying on a ship with a potential defect is also dangerous, Ivan Moisev admitted. However, the state commission should just weigh all the possible risks and make a decision based on the information available. Now there is a situation where each action entails the emergence of new risks, and the task of the commission is to choose the safest option.

As for the investigation into the cargo ship’s leak site, it appears to have been completed, although the result has yet to be released to the press.

“In one of the social networks, which is trustworthy, there was information that the review from the manipulator arm confirms the theory of a space body hitting the ship,” Ivan Moiseev said. “Of course, the probability of such events is very small, but why not allow this accident?

The damaged cargo ship Progress MS-21, which undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) on February 18, was flooded in the Pacific Ocean, Roscosmos reported. It was deorbited, entered the atmosphere and collapsed.

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