Russia may be sending a new craft to replace the leaking Soyuz capsule in the space station
That spacecraft could be ready to soar without humans on board sometime in February, a few weeks before the crew will return in March, officials said.
On Dec. 14, as a pair of cosmonauts were preparing to leave the station for a spacewalk, ground controllers at Roscosmos and NASA discovered a coolant leak controlled from the Soyuz capsule.
Roscosmos quickly canceled the spacewalk. And after inspecting the vehicle with the station’s robotic arm, they determined that the leak came from an external cooling line used to keep the capsule at a comfortable temperature as it transports crews through the atmosphere to the vacuum of space. .
In a statement last week, NASA said “none of the crew members aboard the station were in any danger and all were conducting normal operations throughout the day.” It added that “images and data are being analyzed by Roscosmos. The agency also closely monitors Soyuz spacecraft temperatures, which remain within acceptable limits. NASA and Roscosmos will continue to collaborate on action following the ongoing analysis.”
None of the coolant contaminates the space station, said Joel Montalbano, NASA’s space station manager, and the astronauts on the station continue to conduct science experiments, including growing tomatoes.
It is not clear what caused the leak. Montalbano said possible causes being investigated include faulty hardware on the craft or possible damage from a piece of debris or a micro-meteorite.
On Wednesday, NASA canceled a spacewalk to install an upgraded solar panel because a piece of debris was expected to come within a quarter mile of the station. Crews maneuvered the station to avoid the debris and the spacewalk was rescheduled for Thursday.
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