MS-23, the Soyuz spacecraft Russia sent to bring cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio back to Earth, has arrived at the International Space Station. Per Space.com, Russia’s Roscosmos Space Agency announced early Sunday morning that the unmanned vessel docked with the ISS at 7:58PM ET on Saturday evening. As expected, the flight launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on February 24th.
MS-23 was originally scheduled to launch later this year, but Roscosmos was forced to push up the flight after MS-22 – Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio’s original return craft – sprung a coolant leak in December following a micrometeoroid strike. The incident put Roscosmos and NASA in a tricky spot. If an emergency broke out on the ISS and the entire crew had to evacuate, it wasn’t clear whether MS-22 could carry its crew safely back to Earth. Roscosmos and NASA eventually settled on a contingency plan that would have seen MS-22 transport Prokopyev and Petelin, while Rubio would have hitched a ride on the SpaceX Crew-5 Dragon. Thankfully, the two agencies weren’t forced to put that plan to the test.
With MS-23 safely docked with the ISS, Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio will remain at the space station until at least September. The three were originally due to complete their mission in March. In the meantime, Roscomos plans to bring MS-22 back to Earth sometime next month.