Russian space capsule hit by coolant leak returns safely to Earth

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A Russian space capsule has safely returned to Earth without a crew, months after it suffered a coolant leak in orbit.

The Soyuz MS-22 was damaged in December while attached to the International Space Station.

Russian space officials blamed the leak on a tiny meteoroid that punctured the craft’s external radiator. They launched an empty replacement capsule last month to serve as a lifeboat for the crew.

The damaged capsule safely landed on Tuesday under a striped parachute in the steppes of Kazakhstan, touching down as scheduled at 5.45pm local time about 91 miles south east of Zhezkazgan under clear blue skies.

Kazakhstan Russia Space Station
A helicopter flies over the uncrewed Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft after its landing (Roscosmos State Space Corporation via AP)

The three launched in September for what should have been a six-month mission on the International Space Station.

They are now scheduled to return to Earth in September in a new Soyuz that arrived at the space outpost last month with no one on board, meaning the trio will spend a year in orbit.

Also on the station are Nasa astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, the United Arab Emirates’ Sultan Alneyadi, and Russia’s Andrey Fedyaev.

A similar coolant leak was spotted in February on the Russian Progress MS-21 cargo ship docked at the space outpost, raising suspicions of a manufacturing flaw.

Russian state space corporation Roscosmos ruled out any defects after a check and concluded that both incidents resulted from hits by meteoroids.

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