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Cosmonauts clog small air leak on the International Space Station – Spaceflight Now



The space probe Soyuz MS-09 is docked to the Rasswet module of the International Space Station. Photo: NASA / ESA / Alexander Gerst

Two cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) stuck a small hole in the hull of a Soyuz ferry with gauze and sealant on Thursday, stabilizing the air pressure within the orbiting research outpost ,

Working inside the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft docked with the Station's Rasswet module ground-mounted, cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev closed the 2-millimeter (0.08-inch) opening with a squeegee saturated in an epoxy sealant, what NASA has described as a "tiny pressure leak".

Ground controllers have discovered light air pressure loss around 7pm EDT (2300 GMT) Wednesday, but they did not wake the crew after it was determined that the station was not in immediate danger.

When the crew woke up on Thursday at their normally scheduled time, the mission directors instructed them to look for the cause of the leak. After extensive inspections, the station crew traced the leak to the orbital section of the Russian Soyuz MS-09 capsule, which in June brought a Russian cosmonaut, a European astronaut and a NASA flight engineer to the Orbit complex.

The Orbital The module provides a crew lounge during the trip to the station and is discarded before re-entry to burn the atmosphere. Station teams return to Earth in a separate compartment of the Soyuz, the landing module.

Two Soyuz capsules are currently docked at the station. The Russian spaceships also serve as lifeboats to evacuate the crew of the station during an emergency.

Photo of cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Prokopyev at the International Space Station. Credit: Oleg Artemyev / Roskosmos

Officials did not immediately say what caused the air leak, but it may have been caused by a collision with a fragment of space debris or micrometeorites or some sort of malfunction in the Soyuz capsule.

The cosmonauts covered the tiny hole with Kapton tape and sent detailed endoscopic images to experts at the Russian Mission Control Center in Korolev near Moscow, who advised the crew to seal the opening with epoxy resin.

Following a debate between NASA air traffic controllers, station commander Drew Feustel, and Russian engineers about the best way to plug the hole, the cosmonauts were instructed by managers in Russia to use a cloth strip soaked with sealant on both sides.

The Russian mission control instructed the crew to push the gauze into the hole, then glue the edges and set them down and dry them.

A few minutes past 13:00 EDT (1700 GMT), the cosmonauts radioed to earth that the hole was clogged. The crew reported a blister in which to apply the sealant, but they did not notice any further signs of a pressure leak as they listened to the draft with a sensitive microphone.

The Russian Operations Control then told the crew to stop their repair work the rest of the day.

Russian space officers, including experienced cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev (left) and Roscosmos boss Dmitry Rogosin (center), discuss the pressure leak at the Russian control center in Korolev, Russia. Credit: Roscosmos

"It looks like it's now in a stable configuration with a mix of epoxy resin and a wipe – like a cloth – partly in the hole and partly over the hole," said the European astronaut Space Agency Alexander Gerst. The NASA Space Communicator at Mission Control in Houston radioed the crew to see stable air pressures inside the station after the cosmonauts applied the sealant.

"OK, sounds great," Gerst replied. If there is something you want to change, please let us know, otherwise we'll see that as stable now. "

" We will not do anything else today, "a member of the Russian Control Team told a translator. "Let it go, and tomorrow we'll do a leak check and everything else."

"Let it go first, let it stiffen, then we'll call you tomorrow, and we'll make a final decision." Work to restore the integrity of the ISS is complete, "tweeted Dmitry Rogozin, director of Roscosmos.

The station crew printed the atmosphere in the research lab with air tanks aboard a Russian Progress Supply Freighter (19659003) E-mail the Author

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1


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