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Space station crew investigating yet another coolant leak

The Soyuz MS-18 crew ship is pictured docked to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module.
A Soyuz spaceship docked to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module in 2021. NASA / NASA

The International Space Station (ISS) is reportedly dealing with yet another coolant leak.

In a post on the messaging site Telegram, NASA’s Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, said the apparent leak was occurring from a backup radiator attached to the outside of the Russian Nauka module. The Nauka module was added to the space station in 2021, while the radiator arrived in 2010 before being added to Nauka earlier this year.

Roscosmos said that the main thermal control circuit of the module continues to operate normally, adding that the crew and the ISS are not in any danger.

An update provided by NASA said that at around 1 p.m. ET on Monday, flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, used cameras on the outside of the station to inspect the area of concern and “observed flakes emanating from one of two radiators on the Roscosmos Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module.”

The team on the ground informed the seven-person crew aboard the space station of the apparent leak, after which NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli confirmed the presence of the flakes via a visual inspection made from the ISS’s Cupola module.

At this point, the crew was told to close all of the shutters on the U.S. segment windows as a precaution against contamination.

The primary radiator on Nauka is said to be working normally, providing full cooling to the module and creating no adverse conditions for the crew or wider station, NASA said.

As of Monday evening, engineers on the ground are working with the crew to further analyze the situation, and NASA promised to offer an update when more information becomes available.

It’s not clear yet if the coolant leak will affect the spacewalk currently scheduled for Thursday involving astronauts Loral O’Hara and Andreas Mogensen.

Monday’s incident follows another leak at the ISS toward the end of last year on a docked Soyuz crew capsule. It resulted in two Russian cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut staying in space for six months longer than planned as Roscosmos exchanged the damaged capsule for a new one. An investigation concluded that the leak was likely caused by a tiny meteoroid striking the spaceship.

A few months later, in February, another coolant leak occurred, this time affecting a Russian cargo spacecraft docked at the station. This was also believed to be the result of a small object striking the craft, rather than a manufacturing issue.

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