Spaceflight Insider

Chiefs of US, Russian space agencies weigh in on ISS leak

The Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft is launched with three members of the Expedition 56 crew bound for the International Space Station. Photo Credit: Sean Costello / SpaceFlight Insider

The Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft was launched with three members of the Expedition 56 crew bound for the International Space Station. Photo Credit: Sean Costello / SpaceFlight Insider

The heads of the Russian and U.S. space agencies issued a joint statement Sept. 13, 2018, detailing discussions between NASA and Roscosmos regarding the Aug. 29 atmospheric leak on the International Space Station that was discovered coming from a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

The conversation was between NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin about ISS operations due to a request from Roscosmos.

After methodically narrowing down the area the leak was coming from to the orbital module of Soyuz MS-09, the Expedition 56 crew in concert with mission controllers on the ground in Houston and Moscow worked to seal the hole.

Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, NASA astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst rode to space inside Soyuz MS-09 atop a Soyug-FG rocket on June 6, 2018. They are expected to return to Earth in December.

The following is a portion of the statement issued by NASA:

“As part of their discussion, Dmitry Rogozin informed his American counterpart about Roscosmos’ decision to establish a Roscosmos-led Commission to investigate the cause of the leak in the Soyuz (MS-09/55S) spacecraft currently docked to the station.

“The Administrator and the General Director noted speculations circulating in the media regarding the possible cause of the incident and agreed on deferring any preliminary conclusions and providing any explanations until the final investigation has been completed.

“They affirmed the necessity of further close interaction between NASA and Roscosmos technical teams in identifying and eliminating cause of the leak, as well as continuation of normal ISS operations and NASA’s ongoing support of the Roscosmos-led Soyuz investigation. They acknowledged the entire crew is dedicated to the safe operation of the station and all docked spacecraft to ensure mission success.

“The Administrator and the Roscosmos General Director agreed to conduct their first face-to-face meeting at the Baikonur Cosmodrome on or about Oct. 10 when the NASA Administrator will visit Russia and Kazakhstan in conjunction with the upcoming Soyuz crew spacecraft launch of American astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexy Ovchinin.”  

While the release noted that some of the theories as to the potential source of the leak were circulating in the media, it made no mention that Rogozin himself raised the specter of sabotage. As was noted in a Sept. 3 report by TASS, the Roscosmos head said that while a possible strike by a micrometeroid had been ruled out, the hole was almost certainly caused by a person: “It was done by a human hand – there are traces of a drill sliding along the surface.”




Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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