Micrometeorites May Be Cause of Russian Space Capsule Leak


A coolant leak in a Russian capsule attached to the International Space Station may have been caused by a micrometeorite, Russian space officials said Thursday.

Both Russian space company Roscosmos and NASA said the incident did not pose any danger to the space station crew. However, the leak prompted two Russian cosmonauts to abort a planned spacewalk earlier in the day.

Sergey Krikalev, a veteran cosmonaut who heads the Roscosmos space agency’s human spaceflight program, said the impact of the meteorite on an external radiator in the Soyuz MS-22 capsule may have caused cooling agent escapes.

Krikalev said in a statement that the failure could affect the performance of the capsule’s cooling system and the temperature of equipment parts of the capsule, but would not endanger the crew.

Krikalev said Russian flight controllers were assessing the situation and following the temperature indicator on the Soyuz. “There were no other changes to the parameters of the Soyuz spacecraft and the space station, so there was no threat to the crew,” he said.

NASA emphasized Thursday that “no one on board the space station crew is in danger and is operating normally throughout the day.”

It echoed Russia’s claim that “the Soyuz’s external radiator cooling circuit was the suspected source of the leak”.

“Roscosmos is closely monitoring the temperature of the Soyuz spacecraft, which remains within acceptable limits,” NASA said in a statement, adding, “NASA and Roscosmos continue to coordinate external imagery and inspection programs to help assess External leak location. Additional inspections of the Soyuz exterior are planned using the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm.”

As Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin prepared to venture outside the space station for a planned spacewalk early Thursday, the ground Experts saw a stream of fluid and particles, as well as pressure drops across instruments, in live video from space, from the Soyuz capsule.

Prokopyev, Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio arrived at the International Space Station in September in a capsule that served as a lifeboat for the crew.

Krikalev said future operations of the space station will depend on an assessment of the status of the capsule. “Decisions about future flight programs will be made based on that analysis,” he said.

Along with Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio, four other crew members are currently also on the space outpost: NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos’ Anna Kikina.

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