NASA has announced that the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle currently docked at the International Space Station (ISS) could be used to transport additional crew members to Earth in the event of an emergency.
Continued A Coolant leakage Aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that docked to the ISS in December, international space agencies including NASA and Roscosmos came up with a plan to get crew members home safely. They plan to use it An alternative Soyuz Craft to launch in February.
However, observers were concerned about what would happen in the event of an emergency, which now requires between the evacuation of the ISS and the arrival of a Soyuz replacement. Normally, crew members leave in the vehicles they traveled to the station, but because of the Soyuz leak, it’s uncertain whether the vehicle will be safe for the return trip.
Leaked Soyuz spacecraft raises questions about how to evacuate ISS crew in case of emergency
The problem is that without its coolant, the Soyuz could overheat as it travels back through Earth’s atmosphere. That’s why the plan is for the leaked Soyuz to return to Earth without a crew, with the crew members scheduled to travel on board using the Soyuz instead.
But in the event of an emergency evacuation, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio is scheduled to travel aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon. Four group-5 members And Russian cosmonauts Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Betlin were leaked to travel in the Soyuz.
“What we want to do is reduce the heat load on Soyuz, so by removing Rubio from Soyuz you’re taking about a third of the human heat load,” explained Joel Montalbano, NASA’s International Space Station program manager. Wednesday’s press conference. He emphasized that this is necessary only in emergency situations.
For the NASA astronaut who visited the space station on Soyuz, NASA worked with SpaceX to verify whether the existing Crew Dragon vehicle would be safe to carry five crew members instead of four, including ventilation, oxygen supply and safe landing.
The problem is that without its coolant, the Soyuz could overheat as it travels back through Earth’s atmosphere.
“We found that this cargo area would be the perfect size to put the seat liner and one crew member down in this area,” said Steve Stich, commercial team program manager at NASA Johnson Space Center. “If we needed to, we could accommodate two more crew members in this cargo tray area.”
Currently, the Crew Dragon configuration has an upper deck with four seats and a lower deck with three cargo trays. But if necessary, four crew members can be seated on the upper deck and one or more seats on the lower deck can be converted from cargo hold to crew seating.
“In the early days of setting up the Crew Dragon interior, we set up the interior to seat up to seven people, and then it was adjusted to convert three of the seats into spaces that could be used as cargo storage,” Sarah said. Walker, Director, Dragon Mission Management at SpaceX.
SpaceX ran the numbers and found that carrying an extra crew member was safe for the vehicle. “In terms of onboard life support, the Dragon has plenty of margin, even with an extra crew member,” Walker said.
As for future spills to vehicles attached to the ISS, there is the threat of meteorites, which can travel at very high speeds and strike and damage craft stationed there. That is believed to have caused damage to the Soyuz’s radiator. But NASA says the SpaceX Crew Dragon is capable of handling such impacts.
“In terms of onboard life support, even with an extra crew member, the Dragon has plenty of margin.”
“We designed that vehicle to already have a certain amount of environmental shielding around critical systems like the propellant tanks and other areas,” Stich said. “We went into the design knowing this was one of our high-risk areas.”
Crew Dragons attached to the ISS are inspected during weekly checkouts and extensive monthly inspections to ensure the vehicles are safe to travel on. The station’s robotic arm is also used to take photos and videos of the craft before it is dismantled.
While it is unlikely that this contingency plan will be needed, officials have stressed that they want to be prepared for any eventuality that may arise while waiting for a replacement Soyuz to arrive at the space station. “We always plan for the best — and sometimes the worst,” said Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator of the Space Operations Directorate.