ISS air leak isolated to Russian module ahead of cargo launch
Flight controllers and crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have narrowed down their hunt for an air leak to the Russian-built Zvezda Service Module of the orbital outpost. However, they have yet to pinpoint the exact location of the minor hull breach.
For several months NASA and its international partners have been struggling to find and plug a small air leak in humanity’s only permanent crewed outpost beyond Earth’s atmospheric shell. The crew have already swept the US section of the station for the leak but came up empty, prompting a search of the Russian modules.
At this point it is important to note that the leak is considered a minor one, and that neither the crew nor the station itself is in danger. The space station has experienced numerous leaks in its storied 20-plus year history, including a leak to a docked Soyuz spaceship, which Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin suggested may have been caused by a hand-drilled hole.
On Monday night the leak was seemingly observed to increase, prompting flight controllers to wake the crew and have them search the Russian section of the station.
Station commander and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, along with Roscosmos cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner collected data on the station interior using an ultrasound leak detector while methodically sealing off airlocks. It was later determined that the apparent increase in atmospheric loss was due to a temperature change, and that the rate of loss had actually remained steady.
Whilst the astronauts and cosmonauts were unable to find its exact location, a ground analysis of the testing data was able to isolate the Russian-built Zvezda Service Module as the site of the leak. Further testing will now be carried out to find the exact position. All airlocks have been opened and the crew members have resumed their usual work.
According to the Russian space agency Roscosmos, the atmospheric pressure aboard the ISS is being lost at a rate of 1 mm per 8 hours.
The news comes as the crew prepares for the arrival of an uncrewed Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft, which is set to launch on Thursday night and rendezvous with the station on October 4.