Tiny meteorite may have caused coolant leak from Soyuz capsule

Russian and NASA engineers were assessing a coolant leak from a Soyuz crew capsule docked to the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday that may have been caused by a micrometeor strike.

The coolant leak forced the last-minute cancellation of a spacewalk by two Russian cosmonauts on Wednesday and could potentially impact a flight back to Earth by three crew members.

Russian space company Roscosmos and the US space agency said the leak on the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft posed no danger to astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the ISS.

“Crew members aboard the space station are safe and in no danger during the escape,” NASA said.

He said ground crews were assessing “fluid and potential impacts to the integrity of the Soyuz spacecraft.”

“NASA and Roscosmos will continue to work together to determine the next course of action following the ongoing analysis,” NASA said.

TASS news agency quoted Sergei Krikalev, a former cosmonaut who heads the crewed spaceflight program for Roscosmos, as saying the leak may have been caused by a micrometeorite hitting Soyuz MS-22.

“The cause of the leak may be a micrometeorite entering the radiator,” Krikalev was quoted by TASS as saying. “Possible consequences are changes in the temperature regime.”

“No other changes in the telemetry parameters of the Soyuz spacecraft or station (ISS) on the Russian or American segments were detected,” Krikalev said.

The Soyuz MS-22 carried Russian cosmonauts Sergei Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio to the ISS in September.

It is planned to bring them back to Earth in March and another spacecraft should be sent to the ISS if the Soyuz MS-22 is not available.

Prokopyev and Petelin were planning a spacewalk on Wednesday when the leak was discovered.

“The crew reported that the ship’s diagnostic system warning device had triggered, indicating a pressure drop in the cooling system,” Roscosmos said. “At the moment, all systems of the ISS and the ship are functioning normally, the crew is safe.”

– White particles –

NASA said the leak happened “on the back” of the Soyuz MS-22, which is attached to the ISS.

Dramatic NASA television footage showed white snowflake-like particles emerging from the rear of the ship for hours.

There are currently four other astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the space station in addition to Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin.

NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata and Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina were flown to the ISS in October aboard a SpaceX spacecraft.

Space has been a rare avenue of cooperation between Moscow and Washington since the start of Moscow’s assault on Ukraine in February, and the ensuing Western sanctions against Russia that shredded ties between the two countries.

The ISS was launched in 1998 at a time of increased cooperation between the United States and Russia following their Space Race competition during the Cold War.

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