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Another coolant leak affects cargo spacecraft docked to ISS

For the second time in recent months, a Russian spacecraft has experienced a coolant leak while docked to the International Space Station (ISS). The spacecraft affected in the most recent leak is a cargo vehicle, and space agencies confirm that the ISS crew are not in any danger from the leak.

The ISS Progress 82 cargo craft is pictured shortly after docking to the space station in October of 2022.
The ISS Progress 82 cargo craft is pictured shortly after docking at the space station in October 2022. NASA

On February 11, a new uncrewed Russian Progress 83 docked successfully at the ISS carrying cargo for the station. But the other Progress spacecraft already docked there — called Progress 82 — sprang a coolant leak. Russian space agency Roscosmos has not announced many details about the issue, but according to SpaceNews, the agency confirmed in a Telegram message that a depressurization had occurred and added that there was no threat to the ISS crew.

NASA gave more details in an update, saying that the depressurization was in the Progress 82’s coolant system. “The reason for the loss of coolant in the Progress 82 spacecraft is being investigated,” NASA wrote. “The hatches between the Progress 82 and the station are open, and temperatures and pressures aboard the station are all normal. The crew, which was informed of the cooling loop leak, is in no danger and continuing with normal space station operations.”

Progress 82 arrived at the ISS arrived at the ISS in October last year, on an uncrewed mission carrying cargo. It had been scheduled to undock from the space station this coming week, filled with garbage, and then burn up in the atmosphere. NASA has not announced any changes to this departure due to the leak issue, and as the mission is uncrewed and will be deorbited anyway, the loss of coolant may not be a problem.

This the second coolant leak of a Russian spacecraft docked with the ISS within the past few months. In December last year, a Russian Soyuz capsule sprung a dramatic coolant leak, which was caught on video. Roscosmos said that leak was thought to have been caused by a micrometeoroid impact.

The leak of the Soyuz spacecraft was a major concern as that vehicle had been set to carry three astronauts home from the ISS to Earth, but temperatures inside the vehicle would have been dangerous for them during travel. Instead, Roscosmos announced it would send a replacement Soyuz, launching later this month, to bring the crew home, with a SpaceX Crew Dragon available as an emergency backup option.

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