MOSCOW (AP) — A coolant leak from a Russian space capsule attached to the International Space Station may have been caused by a micrometeorite, a Russian space official said Thursday.
Russian space company Roscosmos and NASA both said the incident posed no danger to the station’s crew. However, the leak prompted two Russian cosmonauts to abort a planned spacewalk earlier today.
Sergei Krikalev, a veteran cosmonaut who is director of crewed spaceflight programs at Roscosmos, said a meteorite hitting one of the Soyuz MS-22 capsule’s external radiators could have caused the coolant to leak.
The malfunction could affect the performance of the capsule’s cooling system and the temperature in the capsule’s equipment section, but does not endanger the crew, Krikalev said in a statement.
Krikalev said Russian flight controllers were assessing the situation and monitoring temperature gauges on the Soyuz. “There have been no other changes to the Soyuz spacecraft and station parameters, so there is no threat to the crew,” he said.
NASA stressed Thursday that “none of the crew members aboard the space station were in danger, and all conducted normal operations throughout the day.”
He backed up the Russian statement, saying “the Soyuz’s external radiator cooling loop is the suspected leak source.”
“Roscosmos is closely monitoring Soyuz spacecraft temperatures, which remain within acceptable limits,” NASA said in a statement, adding that “NASA and Roscosmos continue to coordinate external imaging and inspection plans to help to assess the location of the external leak Plans for an additional inspection of the exterior of the Soyuz using the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm are underway.
As Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin were about to venture outside the station during a planned spacewalk early Thursday, specialists on the ground saw a stream of fluids and particles on a live video from space, as well as a pressure drop on the instruments, emanating from the Soyuz Capsule.
Prokopyev, Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio used the capsule to arrive at the International Space Station in September, and it serves as a lifeboat for the crew.
Krikalev said future station operations would depend on an assessment of the capsule’s condition. “Decisions on the future flight program will be made based on this analysis,” he said.
Alongside Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio, four other crew members are currently in space: NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Anna Kikina of Roscosmos.