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Air is leaking from Russian module of the International Space Station

The International Space Station (ISS) is experiencing a leak from a Russian module, but NASA assures the public that it is no threat to the crew on board. While it is not usual for a small amount of air to leak from the ISS regularly, this leak has recently increased in volume, which is why it has been closely observed.

At a briefing regarding the upcoming launch of Crew-8 to the station, now rescheduled for late Saturday night, Joel Montalbano, manager of the International Space Station Program, spoke about the leak. Montalbano said the leak had been observed since before the launch of the Russian Progress resupply craft in February, when it was leaking at a rate of around 1 pound per day. But since the arrival of the Progress craft, it has increased to around 2 pounds per day.

“It’s not an impact to Crew-8, but I didn’t want anybody to be surprised if they heard about that later,” Montalbano said, emphasizing that it was “not an impact right now to crew safety of vehicle operations but something for everybody to be aware of.”

The leak is at the aft end of the Russian service module, where the Progress supply ships attach to the station. It is an area about three feet in length, which has had previous cracks repaired. There is a hatch to this area, which was closed. After the hatch was closed, the rest of the space station did not have further leaks.

The hatch was kept closed for 24 hours after the arrival of the Progress to ensure there were no further issues, then opened to allow the ISS crew members to unload the cargo from the spacecraft. The hatch was then closed again and is expected to remain closed until early April.

The ISS has had problems with leaks in the past, including more dramatic coolant leaks from Russian spacecraft docked at the station in 2022 and 2023. The 2022 leak was of particular concern as it affected a Soyuz capsule, which is used to transport crew, so any loss of coolant could have been dangerous for those on board during a return journey to Earth. In that case, an extra spacecraft was sent to transport the crew members home.

Small air leaks from the ISS are typically not a danger to those on board but rather a waste of resources and an annoyance. Now, NASA says it is working with Russian space agency Roscosmos on what steps to take next, working out when the hatch will need to be opened again in the future and for how long.

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Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
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