A secondary radiator on a Russian space station module leaked Monday, the third time in the past year that a Russian component has lost heat-dissipating coolant. How the latest incident might impact station operations was not immediately known, but officials said the crew was not in any danger.
Russia’s federal space agency Roscosmos said in a post on Telegram that the leak occurred in a backup “radiator circuit” designed to help cool experimental hardware on the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module, or MLM.
“The main thermal control circuit of the module functions normally and provides comfortable conditions in the living area of the module,” the Russians said, according to a Google Translate translation. “The crew and the station are not in danger.”
In the meantime, “the main operational management group continues to analyze the current situation,” they added.
Flight controllers at Johnson Space Center in Houston radioed the U.S. station crew just after 1 p.m. EDT, telling them, “We’re seeing flakes outside” — likely frozen coolant — and asking for someone to float in the multi-window dome module to see better.
That’s exactly what NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli did, saying, “Yes, there’s a leak coming from MLM’s radiator.”
The Nauka module includes two radiator systems, including one launched on a space shuttle in 2010 with the Russian Rassvet docking compartment. The radiator that suffered the leak was mounted on the Nauka laboratory module last April during a Russian spacewalk.
“Nauka’s main radiator is operating normally, providing complete cooling of the module without impacting the crew or space station operations,” NASA said in a statement. “Teams on the ground will continue to investigate the cause of the leak and additional updates will be made as soon as possible.”
Last December 14, as two cosmonauts prepared to venture out for a spacewalk, a thick shower of frozen coolant particles was spotted spewing from the Soyuz crew ferry carrying the astronaut. of NASA Frank Rubio and two Russian cosmonauts to the previous space station. September.
The leak drained the ship’s entire coolant supply and Russian engineers, fearing that sensitive electronics would overheat during reentry, concluded that it could not be safely used to bring back the ship. crew back to Earth in March as initially planned.
Instead, ain February and the crew’s stay aboard the station was extended by six months, reaching an American record of 371 days. Rubio and his teammates on September 27.
The Soyuz escape was likely caused by a micrometeoroid impact. By an extremely improbable coincidence, a Russian Progress cargo shipin February.
Unmanned Progress spacecraft are designed to burn up during re-entry, preventing recovery of hardware for troubleshooting. As for the Soyuz, only the central descent module returns and in this case, it returned to Earth without a crew on board. The leaking plumbing was in the part of the ship that had been abandoned before re-entry.
Although the chances of two micrometeoroids colliding with similar systems on similar spacecraft can only be considered extremely low, no other explanation has been proposed.
Monday’s leak did not involve any flight-critical systems, but NASA wants to make sure it is completely isolated before a Thursday spacewalk by NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara and astronaut from the European Space Agency Andreas Mogensen.
Coolant particles stuck to a spacesuit and carried inside the station could pose a health threat.