According to a statement from Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, an uncontrolled coolant leak on a Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft docked at the International Space Station has damaged the crew capsule.
A violent coolant leak on Russia’s Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft currently docked to the International Space Station (ISS) was detected on Wednesday (Dec. 14) at 7:45 p.m. EST (0045 GMT on Dec. 15), while Expedition 68 cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev & Dmitry Petelin were preparing for a nearly 7 hour spacewalk outside the ISS. Both cosmonauts were already in their spacesuits and depressurizing the airlock when the extravehicular activity (EVA) was called off. As the cosmonauts returned to the main body of the space station, cameras on the outside of the station captured a constant stream of frozen coolant pouring into space from the Soyuz capsule.
According to a Google translation, Roscosmos issued a statement via its Telegram channel on Thursday (Dec. 15), writing that “according to preliminary information, on Thursday, December 15, the outer skin of the instrument and assembly compartment of the Soyuz MS-22 manned spacecraft was damaged,” but that the crew aboard the space station is safe.
“The crew stated that the ship’s diagnostic system’s warning device went off, indicating a pressure drop in the cooling system. A visual check confirmed the leak, following which it was decided to interrupt the planned extravehicular activities by the crew members of the Russian segment of the ISS, Sergey Prokopiev & Dmitry Petelin, “Officials from Roscosmos noted in the statement.
“At this time, all ISS and ship systems are operational normally, and the crew is safe,” the statement concluded. “After analysis of the situation, a decision will be made on the next steps for both Earth specialists and members of the ISS Russian segment crew.”
On Thursday, NASA made a similar statement, adding that “Following the ongoing review, NASA and Roscosmos will continue to collaborate to identify the next course of action. The space station’s crew members are safe and were not in any danger during the leak.”
In response to Space.com’s request for more information, a NASA spokeswoman stated that the organisation will release an update on its blog.
It is unclear how the leak and damage to the Soyuz craft would effect the scheduled return of the MS-22 crew, which includes NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, in March 2023. Neither NASA nor Roscosmos have said if the MS-22 capsule intended to carry Rubio, Petelin, and Prokopiev home is still flightworthy following an apparent severe loss of coolant.
It is also not known whether the ISS as a whole or the Cygnus cargo ship docked near MS-22 suffered damage as a result of the leak. There are also two Progress cargo pods, a Dragon cargo pod and a Crew Dragon, which carried NASA Nicole Mann & Josh Cassada, Japan’s Koichi Wakata and cosmonaut Anna Kikina to the space station in October 2022 .
Ammonia, a typical spacecraft coolant, can corrode numerous metals, but the space agency haven’t indicated which specific coolant leaked from the Soyuz vehicle.