Image credit: RSC Energia

Russia’s Soyuz-2.1a rocket with the Soyuz MS-23 non-crewed spacecraft has been transported to the launch complex at the 31st site of Baikonur.

What now follows is three days of preparation and launch of the unpiloted Soyuz on February 24 at 03:24:29 Moscow Time.

The ship is designed to replace the “emergency” Soyuz MS-22 (compromised due to coolant leak) and return Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergei Prokopiev, Dmitry Petelin and NASA astronaut Francisco Rubio to Earth.

Image credit: RSC Energia

External influences

Meanwhile, before its tossing into the ocean, an inspection of the also compromised Progress MS-21 cargo craft was carried out.

Image credit: Roscosmos/RSC Energia

Image credit: Roscosmos/RSC Energia

“According to preliminary data from RSC Energia, the Progress MS-21, like the Soyuz MS-22 before, was exposed to external influences,” states a Roscosmos Telegram posting.

“Such conclusions are made on the basis of photographs that show changes on the outer surface of the ship, including on the radiator of the instrument-aggregate compartment and solar panels.”

Manufacturing defects?

In addition, in order to exclude the prospect that the two vehicles suffered manufacturing defects on the ground, RSC Energia analyzed the history of comments on the thermal control system over the past 15 years.

“The analysis of the received information continues,” a Roscosmos posting notes, with a number of ground experiments planned to simulate the damage.

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