Russians cancel spacewalk to fix major Soyuz coolant leak

Two cosmonauts were about to float outside the international space station Wednesday for a planned spacewalk when Russian flight controllers noted what appeared to be a major cooling system leak in the only Soyuz crew ship docked at the outpost.

NASA television cameras showed a torrent of white flakes streaming through space, appearing to come from the instrumentation and rear propulsion module of the Soyuz MS-22/68S spacecraft that carried Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitry Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio in space on September 1. 21.

Dramatic video released from the International Space Station on December 14, 2022 showed a thick stream of what appeared to be frozen coolant particles moving away from the Russian Soyuz MS-22/68S ship which was carrying two cosmonauts and a spaceman from NASA at the lab in September. The cosmonauts were preparing for a spacewalk when the leak was detected. The spacewalk was canceled pending further analysis. / Credit: NASA TV (both)

Another image of the Russian ferry Soyuz MS-22/68S.  December 14, 2022. / Credit: NASA TV (both)

Another image of the Russian ferry Soyuz MS-22/68S. December 14, 2022. / Credit: NASA TV (both)

Prokopyev and Petelin were geared up – and in the process of depressurizing the Poisk airlock compartment to begin an already planned spacewalk – when Russian flight controllers canceled the excursion amid analysis of telemetry and the video to determine the nature of the leak.

While no one aboard the space station was in danger, the Soyuz spacecraft is the only Russian ferry docked at the space station, and it’s the only way home for Prokopyev, Petelin, and Rubio. They must untie and return to Earth at the end of March.

It is not yet known whether the Soyuz can return home as is with a damaged cooling system, whether some sort of spacewalk repair might be possible, or whether a replacement Soyuz might need to be launched.

Cosmonaut Anna Kikina, working inside the Russian Nauka laboratory module (left), uses a European-made robotic arm to inspect the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft (right) after it caused a leak of apparent coolant, forcing Russian flight controllers to cancel an already planned spacewalk.  December 14, 2022. / Credit: NASA TV

Cosmonaut Anna Kikina, working inside the Russian Nauka laboratory module (left), uses a European-made robotic arm to inspect the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft (right) after it caused a leak of apparent coolant, forcing Russian flight controllers to cancel an already planned spacewalk. December 14, 2022. / Credit: NASA TV

Regardless, the leak was still visible three hours after it was first detected.

Rob Navias, mission control commentator at Johnson Space Center in Houston, said the leak was discovered after telemetry indicated low pressure in a Soyuz cooling loop.

“We noticed a visible stream of flakes coming from the back of the Soyuz near the instrumentation and propulsion module which indicated a leak,” Navias said. “Experts, specialists in Moscow, are assessing the nature of the fluid that appears to be leaking from the Soyuz and what impact it might have on the integrity of the Soyuz MS-22.”

What could have caused the leak — a space debris impact, pressure-related hardware failure, or some other issue — is not yet known.

The ISS is staffed with rotating crews of astronaut-cosmonauts who are launched to the lab aboard a three-seat Soyuz spacecraft and four-seat SpaceX Crew Dragon ferry ships. Once docked at the lab, the ferries serve as lifeboats in case of an emergency that might require a crew to leave early.

Crews must disembark on the same ferry that carried them to orbit. For NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, as well as Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata and cosmonaut Anna Kikina, that means the Crew Dragon. who wore them into orbit on October 5.

Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio were launched on board the Soyuz MS-22/68S spacecraft on September 21. If the ferry is deemed unairworthy due to the alleged coolant leak, the Russians would likely have to send another Soyuz to take them home.

How long this might take, if necessary, is not yet known. But the Russians launched an unpiloted Soyuz to the Salyut 6 space station in 1979 after an engine problem raised questions about the safety of another Soyuz already docked at the outpost. The crew brought the replacement Soyuz home and landed safely.

GOP wants government spending bill pushed back to next year

France ends Morocco’s Cinderella story at World Cup

New Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass faces homelessness crisis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *