A stricken Soyuz space capsule, which suffered a major coolant leak that left it unable to carry its three-man crew in December, will leave its space station dock for the trip home early Tuesday (March 28) and you can watch it live online.
The leaky Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft will cast off from its docking port at the International Space Station without any astronauts aboard — a rarity for Russia’s Roscosmos space program — at 5:57 a.m. EDT (0957 GMT).
You can watch it live here and via NASA TV (opens in new tab) beginning at 5:30 a.m. EDT (0930 GMT). If all goes well, the Soyuz will land on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 7:45 a.m. EDT (1145 GMT), but NASA will not broadcast the landing live.
Roscosmos launched the MS-22 Soyuz spacecraft in September 2022 to ferry Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitri Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio to the International Space Station on a six-month mission. But in December, just halfway through the flight, the Soyuz capsule sprung an uncontrollable leak on Dec. 14 that vented its precious coolant into space. Roscosmos engineers have blamed the leak on a micrometeoroid impact, even as they study a similar leak in early February on a different uncrewed Progress cargo ship.
Without coolant, temperatures inside the Soyuz MS-22 capsule can reach a sweltering 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) during its return to Earth, too high for a human crew to make the trip comfortably, NASA officials said. So the leak left Rubio and his Russian crewmates without a ride home or a lifeboat at the station for emergencies.
That ended on Feb. 23, when Roscosmos launched an empty Soyuz MS-23 crew capsule to the station for the three astronauts. They will now return to Earth later this year, possibly as late as September after spending a full year in space.
The Soyuz MS-22, meanwhile, will return to Earth filled with science experiments that can withstand its high internal temperatures, Roscosmos has said via a Telegram post (opens in new tab). It is also carrying old navigation modules, Russian Orlan spacesuit sleeves, TV cameras and other gear, the agency has said.
“About 218 kilograms of cargoes, including the results of scientific experiments and ISS equipment for analysis or reuse are expected to be returned to Earth on the Soyuz MS-22,” Roscosmos officials said according to a TASS news report (opens in new tab).
A recovery team will retrieve the Soyuz capsule after landing so it can be studied to better understand how its coolant leak occurred, as well as what a landing without coolant is like to aid in future missions, Roscosmos officials have said.