Inside Elon Musk's space rescue pod that could help Nasa with critical emergencies | The Sun
A mini-rocket built by Elon Musk could be used to save astronauts in emergencies, Nasa has announced.
The rescue pod, built by Musk's rocket company SpaceX, was the first private spacecraft to carry astronauts into orbit.
The Crew Dragon vehicle has an upper deck with four seats and a lower deck with three cargo pallets.
It is currently docked to the International Space Station (ISS) but could be used to transport astronauts back to Earth in the event of an emergency.
A coolant leak in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked to the ISS in December has left several astronauts stranded in the orbital hub.
The leak was "fairly substantial" according to a Nasa spokesperson at the time.
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Without its coolant, the Soyuz could overheat as it travelled back through Earth’s atmosphere.
Nasa and Russia's space agency Roscosmos worked together to come up with a plan to safely transport crew members home.
The plan they settled on was to use a replacement Soyuz craft that will be launched in February.
Despite the saga, the astronauts are safe,
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But the leaky Russian rocket raised concerns about how to evacuate ISS crew members in the case of an emergency.
If astronauts needed to evacuate the ISS, they would usually do so in the vehicle that they arrived in.
But the coolant issue means that, for now at least, six astronauts are stuck on the station, including four Nasa and two Roscosmos crew members.
The current rescue plan is for Nasa astronaut Frank Rubio to travel in the SpaceX Crew Dragon along with Nasa's four Crew-5 members.
Although the Dragon capsule has just four seats, Sarah Walker, director, Dragon mission management at SpaceX, stressed that it would still be safe to carry an extra person.
“In the early days of laying out the Crew Dragon interior, we actually laid out the interior to accommodate up to seven individuals, and that was later adjusted to convert three of those seats to spaces that could be used as cargo storage,” she said.
“Dragon has plenty of margin, even with the extra crew member, with respect to onboard life support."
Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin will then travel in the Soyuz that experienced the leak.
“What we wanted to do was reduce the heat load in the Soyuz, so by removing Rubio from the Soyuz you take away one third of the human heat load,” Joel Montalbano, manager of the International Space Station program at NASA, told reporters.
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