Science

Russian Cosmonauts Take Spacewalk to Check Site of Capsule Leak

Russian Cosmonauts Take Spacewalk to Check Site of Capsule Leak”

It will be brought back to Earth and investigated for clues to the cause of a small hole in the Soyuz capsule. Russian space officials wanted the site surveyed from the outside, before the capsule's return to Earth next week with Prokopyev and two others.

Roscosmos said Tuesday's spacewalk would be a six-hour mission carried out from 1605 GMT by veteran cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Prokopyev.

Circled in red, the hole in the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft that corresponded to a pressure leak on the International Space Station in August 2018.

Kononenko arrived at the ISS on a Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft last Tuesday, along with NASA's Anne McClain and the Canadian Space Agency's David Saint-Jacques, weeks after the previous launch had to be aborted shortly after takeoff.

Crew members used tape to cover the hole and experts speculated that it could have been caused by the impact of a high-speed rocky fragment flying through space.

"The cosmonauts spent hours using knives, scissors and what looked like garden shears to cut away at the insulation around the spacecraft's orbital module, to peek at the damaged area", NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reported. The space station's commander at the time flatly denied any wrongdoing by himself or his crew.

Today, Prokopyev joined Kononenko on a spacewalk to inspect the fix area from the outside in an effort to discover what caused the leak and to collect a sample of the epoxy that had extruded through the hole from the inside.

This part of the capsule will be jettisoned as usual before atmospheric re-entry, and so poses no risk for descent.

The mess of the heat shield got in the way and Mr Prokopyev had to help out while Mr Kononenko cut and snipped through the material. The extravehicular activity (EVA) was the 213th spacewalk in support of assembly and maintenance in the 20-year history of the space station.

The cosmonauts took pictures of the hull and carefully sampled the plug for later inspection, leaving behind a ragged wound in the Soyuz's insulation layers They also retrieved science experiments from the exterior of the station's Rassvet module before heading back inside.

The insulation proved harder to remove than expected.

Samples and other evidence are due to be brought back to Earth on December 19 with the Soyuz crew, which consists of Prokopyev plus NASA's Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Germany's Alexander Gerst.



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