Space station crew welcomes Soyuz replacement amid Crew Dragon launch preparations in Florida

The unmanned Russian Soyuz crew spacecraft performed a flawless automated docking with the International Space Station on Saturday. Damaged boat shipProviding a reliable lifeboat for three of the lab’s crew members and a safe ride home at the end of an extended mission.

The picture-perfect docking was a major relief to American and Russian planners after a micrometeoroid strike crippled the Soyuz parked at the lab complex.

The Soyuz MS-23/69S shuttle slowly approached the International Space Station on February 25, 2023, after a flawless automated rendezvous, carrying supplies and equipment instead of crew. The ship replaces another Soyuz that was damaged by a micrometroid strike in December.


With a replacement spacecraft in place, NASA is clear to launch the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule early Monday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which will carry another four-person crew to the outpost.

Mission managers met Saturday evening for a formal launch readiness review, finalized a few open issues, and voted to continue the countdown.

“We had a good review today. I thought it was pretty thorough with all the Falcon 9 systems, the (Crew) Dragon systems and the ground systems,” said Steve Stich, NASA’s commercial team program manager.

“In that release readiness review, we voted ‘go’ to move toward release. … It’s an exciting timeline, and we’re looking forward to a good release on Monday morning.”

The Soyuz docking marked a major milestone, easing concerns about how to bring the three station fliers safely back to Earth.

A camera on the approaching Soyuz spacecraft is in almost perfect alignment with the docking target in the Poisk module of the space station moments before the vehicle makes contact.


The Soyuz MS-23/69S spacecraft lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday, carrying supplies and equipment instead of a crew, and guided it to a picture-perfect automated docking at Russia’s Poisk module facing space at 7:58 p.m. ET.

The new Soyuz will replace the MS-22 vehicle that carried Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitry Betlin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio into orbit last September.

They originally planned to return to Earth next month, but on December 14, their Soyuz MS-22 vehicle attacked A line that carries coolant to the external radiators is through a deformed micrometeoroid. As a result, all available coolant was expelled into space.

After an analysis, Russian engineers concluded that the spacecraft could not safely return the three crew members to Earth, given the possibility of overheating after opening critical computers and other sensitive equipment.

Instead, they proceeded to launch the MS-23 vehicle to serve as a lifeboat in the event of an evacuation class emergency, avoiding it so that the crew could eventually return to Earth. To get the normal crew rotation schedule back on track, Prokofiev and his crew would spend a full year in space instead of six months.

But with the arrival of the Soyuz MS-23 shuttle, they’ll once again have a reliable shuttle to take them home in case of a medical emergency or any other problems that require immediate evacuation from the space station.

The Crew-6 Falcon 9 landed on Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center early Friday after an uneventful first-stage engine test firing. The launch of the four-person crew to the International Space Station is scheduled for 1:45 a.m. EST Monday.

NASA/Joel Kovski

The other four crew members of the space station — Crew-5 commander Nicole Mann, Josh Kasada, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata and astronaut Anna Kikina — launched to the lab last October aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. They plan to return to Earth on March 6.

Their replacements — Crew-6 commander Stephen Bowen, Woody Hoburg, astronaut Andrei Fedayev and United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan Alnyadi — are scheduled to launch from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center at 1:45 a.m. Monday.

Bowen and his crew strapped into their Crew Dragon overnight Thursday and took part in a dress rehearsal countdown. Hours later, after the crew left the pad, SpaceX engineers tested the Falcon 9’s first stage engines to verify their readiness for flight.

The crew plans to start the real thing only after 11pm on Sunday. Assuming an on-time liftoff early Monday, the Crew-6 shuttle will reach the space station at 2:38 a.m. Tuesday and dock in the forward Harmony module’s space-facing port. The Crew-5 flyers will close the 151-day mission six days later.

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