Coolant leak detected on Russia’s Nauka science module
Coolant appears to have leaked from an external radiator on Russia’s Nauka science module at the International Space Station.
At about 1 p.m. EDT (17:00 UTC) Oct. 9, NASA’s mission control in Houston alerted the ISS crew to the situation and asked for visual confirmation and a point of origin.
“We’re seeing flakes outside. We need a crew [member] to go to the cupola, look toward the aft side — we think windows five or six — and confirm any visual flakes,” mission control asked NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, one of seven people aboard the outpost as part of Expedition 70.
“There’s a leak coming from the radiator on the MLM.” Moghbeli said, referring to the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module Nauka.
Flakes could be seen via external cameras coming from the general area of the Nauka module, however the exact location of the leak was difficult to pinpoint. Station Commander and European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen said he took photos to be sent to the ground for analysis.
NASA confirmed the incident later in the day. Moreover, Roscosmos, via its Telegram social media account, confirmed the leak was from the external backup radiator, which was delivered more than a decade ago and installed on Nauka earlier this year.
Roscosmos and NASA said there was no threat to the crew or the station and teams on the ground are investigate the cause of the leak.
Nauka was launched in July of 2021, well more than a decade later than originally planned. While on its way to the ISS, it had propulsion issues almost immediately. Moreover, shortly after docking, a programming error caused the module’s thrusters to fire to depletion, causing the entire football field-sized complex to spin 1.5 times before the outpost was brought under control.
This is also the third coolant leak on Russian space hardware at the ISS in less than a year. In December 2022 and February 2023, the external radiators of Soyuz MS-22 and Progress MS-21, respectively, were reported to have been struck by micrometeoroid debris, causing all of the coolant to leak into the vacuum of space.
The incident on Soyuz MS-22 prompted Roscosmos to send a replacement Soyuz to the outpost in February 2023 for Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitry Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, requiring that trio to remain at the ISS for an additional six months. They landed safely in Soyuz MS-23 in September after spending more than a year aboard the outpost.
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.