MOSCOW. A leak of coolant from an unmanned Russian supply ship aboard the International Space Station was the result of an external impact and not a manufacturing defect, the Russian Space Corporation said on Tuesday (February 21st).
The leak from the Progress MS-21 cargo ship was spotted on February 2 and follows a similar leak from the Soyuz crew capsule in December.
Russian space officials said the earlier leak was caused by a small meteorite that left a small hole in an external radiator and leaked coolant into space. But a new leak from another ship cast doubt on that theory, and Russia’s state-run space corporation Roscosmos launched an investigation into the incident to see if it could have been the result of a manufacturing defect.
NASA said its experts were assisting their Russian counterparts in troubleshooting the leak.
Before carrying out inspections at Russian space factories and launch facilities and refueling the cargo, Roscosmos concluded that the leak was caused by an “external impact” similar to the leak from the Soyuz crew capsule in December. On Tuesday. Roscosmos has released a close-up shot of Progress MS-21 that shows a 12-millimeter (0.5-inch) hole in its outer radiator, which it says has never been seen before.
After ruling out a manufacturing defect, Roscosmos cleared the launch of a new Soyuz crew capsule to replace the damaged one.
Russian cosmonauts Sergei Prokopev and Dmitry Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio were scheduled to board the Soyuz they used to return to the station in March, but Russian space officials determined that high temperatures from a coolant leak could make it unsafe. . to use Roscosmos announced that the new Soyuz MS-23 capsule, which will replace it, will be launched automatically on Friday and will be deployed to the station on Sunday.
Because it will travel in uncrewed mode to speed up the launch, the replacement crew will now have to wait until another Soyuz capsule is ready, meaning Prokopev, Petelin and Rubio will have to remain on the station until September, bringing their mission to September. : one year.
NASA stated that it participated in all discussions and agreed to the plan.
In addition to Prokopev, Petelin and Rubio, the space station is home to NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada; Russian Anna Kikina; and Japan’s Koichi Wakata. The four went up in a SpaceX capsule last October.
Roscosmos also announced on Tuesday that Russia will extend its participation in the International Space Station until 2028, reversing an earlier announcement that it may withdraw from the project earlier.