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Leak detected on International Space Station, crew in no danger

The International Space Station as seen by STS-130 crew in 2010. Photo Credit: NASA

The International Space Station as seen by STS-130 crew in 2010. Photo Credit: NASA

The six-person Expedition 56 crew aboard the International Space Station is troubleshooting a “minute pressure leak” that was detected in the orbiting complex by ground controllers in Houston and Moscow, NASA said.

According to the U.S. space agency, signs of a leak were detected around 7 p.m. EDT (23:00 GMT) Aug. 29, 2018, while the crew was still in their scheduled sleep period. However, the decision was made to allow the Expedition 56 crew to continue sleeping since they were in no danger. The crew is safe and healthy and has “weeks of air” left in reserves.

Soyuz MS-09, left, is docked to the Rassvet module. The leak is originating from the upper section of the spacecraft. Photo Credit: NASA

Soyuz MS-09, left, is docked to the Rassvet module. The leak is originating from the upper section of the spacecraft. Photo Credit: NASA

“When the crew was awakened at its normal hour this morning, flight controllers at Mission Control in Houston and at the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow began working procedures to try to determine the location of the leak,” NASA said in a statement, Aug. 30.

According to NASA, the leak had been isolated to a hole about two millimeters in diameter in the orbital module—the upper section—of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, which is attached to the Rassvet module. The cause of the hole is unclear, however a temporary application of Kapton tape has slowed the leaking.

As this is an incident on the Russian side of the station, and inside the Soyuz in particular, it appears Moscow is taking point for a permanent solution. However, Expedition 56 commander Drew Feustel, a NASA astronaut, has asked Houston to request more time from Moscow to evaluate the problem.

Moscow’s plan is to have the cosmonauts fill the hole with a sealant.

The Expedition 56 crew includes Feustel, NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Serena Aunon-Chancellor, European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev.

Soyuz MS-09 was used to bring Prokopyev, Aunon-Chancellor and Gerst to the outpost in June 2018. They are scheduled to land in that spacecraft in December 2018. The vehicles orbital module, where the leak was located, does not return to Earth and is jettisoned before reentry.

“Once the patching is complete, additional leak checks will be performed,” the U.S. space agency said. “All station systems are stable, and the crew is in no danger as the work to develop a long-term repair continues.”

UPDATED at 1:26 p.m. EDT (17:26 GMT) Aug. 30: The cosmonauts have applied a sealant and medical gauze to the hole. Afterword, the crew noticed a bubble appearing over the hole, but the leak appears to have stopped. Moscow has instructed the crew to let it set overnight before checking it tomorrow. The crew has downlinked photos to ground controllers.




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 blog about the International Space Station, called Orbital Velocity. He met with members of the SpaceFlight Insider team during the flight of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket with the MUOS-4 satellite. Richardson joined our team shortly thereafter. His passion for space ignited when he watched Space Shuttle Discovery launch into space Oct. 29, 1998. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized his true calling was communicating to others about space. Since joining SpaceFlight Insider in 2015, Richardson has worked to increase the quality of our content, eventually becoming our managing editor. @TheSpaceWriter

Reader Comments

I keep reading the article trying to figure out what the author is talking about.
Is the leak in the space station itself, or in a module attached to the space station. If it is an an attached module, wouldn’t there be an airlock that would isolate the spacecraft?
Are we talking about the crew capsule that will return the astronauts to Earth?

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