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Meteoroid hit suspected after major leak from Soyuz capsule


A major leak from a Russian capsule docked on the International Space Station was most probably caused when a small meteoroid smashed into a radiator, leading to coolant being sprayed into space, a Roscosmos official has said.

Sergei Krikalev, a former cosmonaut who is now director of crewed space flight programs at Russia’s space corporation, said Thursday’s leak from the Soyuz MS-22 could affect the capsule’s overall coolant system but that there was “no threat for the crew” of the space station.

The leak had prompted a pair of cosmonauts to abort a planned spacewalk earlier in the day. It also raises concerns over the capsule’s capability of returning safely to Earth next spring as planned with two cosmonauts and a Nasa astronaut, or whether an emergency replacement vehicle will have to be sent up.

Micrometeoroids, naturally occurring pieces of rock or metal that can be as small as a grain of sand, pose a significant danger to human spaceflight. They hurl around the Earth at about 17,000mph (27,400km/h) – much faster than the speed of a bullet.

Human-made “space junk” can also damage equipment. Last year, Russia blew up one of its own satellites in a missile test that created clouds of zooming shrapnel.

On Thursday, a “visible stream of flakes” prompted Russian flight controllers to abort the spacewalk, a Nasa livestream showed.

“Tonight’s spacewalk has been cancelled because of an observed leak of what is believed to be a cooling substance from the Soyuz MS-22,” the Nasa commentator Rob Navias can be heard saying in a broadcast from Nasa’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

“We noticed a visible stream of flakes coming from the aft of the Soyuz near the instrumentation and propulsion module that was indicative of a leak,” Navias added.

The mishap occurred just before two of the Roscosmos cosmonauts, crew commander Sergey Prokopyev and flight engineer Dimitri Petelin, suited up for a planned spacewalk to move a radiator from one module to another on the Russian segment of the ISS.

Earlier, an official for Russia’s mission control operations near Moscow was heard telling the pair in a radio transmission that their spacewalk was being cancelled while engineers worked to determine the nature of the problem.

Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin seen conducting a spacewalk on 17 November 2022.
Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dimitri Petelin seen conducting a spacewalk in November 2022. Photograph: Roscosmos/Reuters

Nasa also said the ISS crew was not thought to be in any danger from the leak.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report





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