MOSCOW, February 13. /TASS/. The launch of the crewless Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft intended to bring Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitry Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio back to Earth has been postponed until early March, Roscosmos Chief Yury Borisov said on Monday.
"The launch of the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft in crewless mode has been postponed until not later than the first ten-day period of March so that we can make certain and find the place of the possible breakdown [of the Progress MS-21 resupply ship]," he said.
The launch of the crewless Soyuz MS-23 was initially scheduled for February 20. On February 11, the Progress MS-21 cargo spacecraft experienced a coolant leak while the space freighter was preparing for its undocking from the ISS. The resupply ship that was expected to end its flight within the ISS on February 18 experienced a depressurization of its coolant loop. By now, the space freighter has been isolated from the orbital outpost and the causes of its depressurization are being investigated, Roscosmos said.
The space mission of Roscosmos cosmonauts Prokopyev and Petelin and NASA astronaut Rubio has been extended after a coolant loop on an external radiator of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft docked to the orbital outpost experienced a leak on December 15.
After analyzing the situation, Russia’s state commission made a decision to bring the damaged Soyuz spacecraft back to Earth in crewless mode and return the cosmonauts whose mission has been prolonged for several months aboard the Soyuz MS-23 spaceship.