The Russian space agency Roscosmos has released a statement regarding a major leak on the International Space Station.
On Wednesday, December 14 at 7:45 p.m. EST (0045 GMT on December 15), a violent coolant leak on the Russian Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft currently docked at international space station (ISS) was detected as Expedition 68 cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin prepared for a nearly seven-hour spacewalk outside the ISS. The extravehicular activity (EVA) was canceled after the two cosmonauts were already in their spacesuits and began to depressurize the airlock. Cameras outside the space station showed a steady stream of frozen coolant being shot into space from the Soyuz capsule as cosmonauts returned to the station’s main body.
Thursday (December 15), Roscosmos issued a statement (opens in a new tab) via his Telegram channel, writing that “according to preliminary information, on Thursday, December 15, the outer skin of the instrumentation and assembly compartment of the manned spacecraft Soyuz MS-22 was damaged”, but that the crew on board of the space station remains safe, according to a Google translation (opens in a new tab). (The incident happened at 3:45 a.m. local time on Dec. 15 for Russian Mission Control.)
Related: Soyuz Spacecraft Suffers ‘Pretty Significant’ Leak at Space Station, Cancels Russian Cosmonauts’ Spacewalk
“The crew reported that the vessel’s diagnostic system warning device had activated, indicating a pressure drop in the cooling system. A visual inspection confirmed the leak, after which it was decided to interrupt the extravehicular activities planned by the crew members of the Russian segment of the ISS, Sergey Prokopiev and Dmitry Petelin,” Roscosmos officials wrote in the statement.
“At this time, all ISS and ship systems are operating normally, the crew is safe,” the statement continued. “After analyzing the situation, a decision will be made on the future actions of specialists on Earth and crew members of the Russian segment of the ISS.”
Nasa issued a similar statement (opens in a new tab) Thursday, writing that “NASA and Roscosmos will continue to work together to determine the next course of action after ongoing analysis. Crew members aboard the space station are safe and were in no danger during the leak”.
In response to a request for more detailed information from Space.com, a NASA spokesperson said the agency would issue an update. on his blog (opens in a new tab).
It remains unclear how the leak and damage to the Soyuz craft will affect the planned March 2023 return of the MS-22 crew, who features NASA astronaut Frank Rubio. Neither NASA nor Roscosmos has given any indication as to whether the MS-22 capsule intended to carry Rubio, Petelin and Prokopiev remains airworthy after the apparently large loss of coolant.
It is also unclear whether the ISS as a whole or the Cygnus cargo ship docked near MS-22 suffered damage from the leak. There are also two Progress cargo capsules, a Dragon cargo capsule and a Crew Dragon, which carried NASA’s Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japan’s Koichi Wakata and cosmonaut Anna Kikina to the space station in October 2022.
Space agencies haven’t suggested what particular coolant leaked from the Soyuz vehicle, but ammonia, a common coolant for spacecraft, can be corrosive to many metals.