A Russian Soyuz capsule docked at the International Space Station (ISS) started leaking a large amount of liquid into space on Wednesday, prompting ground officials in Moscow to call off a planned spacewalk by two of its cosmonauts.
None of the station’s seven crew members are in any danger, NASA said.
A video (below) of the spacecraft clearly shows the liquid — thought to be coolant — leaking from the spacecraft as it orbits some 250 miles above Earth.
“On Wednesday, December 14, an external leak was detected from the Roscosmos Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft docked to the Rassvet module on the ISS,” NASA said in a statement on Thursday, adding that the liquid appears to be coming from the spacecraft’s external radiator cooling loop.
Officials called off the spacewalk involving cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin to allow NASA’s Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, to deal with the leak and assess its impact on the integrity of the Soyuz spacecraft.
Roscosmos is now closely monitoring the Soyuz spacecraft’s temperatures, which remain within acceptable limits, and is also examining external imagery to try to learn more about the nature of the leak.
There are also plans to inspect the outside of the Soyuz using the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm, which can be remotely controlled by the crew inside the station.
The damaged crew capsule transported Prokopyev, Petelin, and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio to the space station on September 21.
If the Soyuz spacecraft is deemed to be damaged beyond repair, and therefore unsafe to transport crew members back to Earth, Roscosmos will have to abandon the vehicle and send up another one. The originally planned return date for the three crew members is March, so there’s plenty of time to resolve the situation.
It’s not unusual for those aboard the ISS to be faced with challenging situations from time to time. In July 2021, for example, a new Russian module suddenly fired up its thrusters shortly after docking, pushing the entire space station out of orientation. Ground teams managed to get control of the situation before any serious harm was done. And in November of the same year, the entire ISS crew was forced to take temporary shelter in a docked SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft as the station came dangerously close to a cloud of orbiting space debris. The emergency passed without serious incident.
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