For the second time in two months, a Russian spacecraft docked with the International Space Station (ISS) has sprung a leak.
Mission controllers in Moscow have noticed “a depressurization” in the robotic Progress 82 cargo craft, Russia’s federal space agency Roscosmos announced on Saturday (opens in new tab) (Feb. 11).
The depressurization occurred in the Progress vehicle’s coolant system, NASA officials said.
“The reason for the loss of coolant in the Progress 82 spacecraft is being investigated. The hatches between the Progress 82 and the station are open, and temperatures and pressures aboard the station are all normal,” NASA officials wrote in a blog post on Saturday (opens in new tab). “The crew, which was informed of the cooling loop leak, is in no danger and continuing with normal space station operations.”
Progress 82 arrived at the ISS on Oct. 28, 2022 and was scheduled to depart on Feb. 17. It’s unclear if the freighter will still leave on that date or if mission controllers will keep it around longer than originally planned to continue the leak investigation. (Progress vehicles are designed to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere when their missions are over, so engineers won’t be able to examine the vehicle on the ground.)
Coincidentally, the depressurization was noticed on the same day that another Russian freighter, Progress 83, arrived at the orbiting lab. Progress 83 docked successfully early Saturday morning, unaffected by the travails of its sibling ship.
Progress 82’s leak follows on the heels of a similar incident involving Russia’s MS-22 Soyuz spacecraft, which carried three astronauts to the International Space Station in September and was supposed to haul them home again in March.
But Soyuz MS-22 leaked away all of its coolant on Dec. 14, a dramatic event that Russian mission controllers eventually traced to an apparent micrometeoroid strike. The vehicle is now unfit to carry astronauts except in case of an emergency aboard the ISS, so Roscosmos plans to launch another Soyuz later this month to take its place.
That replacement Soyuz, known as MS-23, will launch uncrewed. It will bring the MS-22 crew — cosmonauts Dmitri Petelin and Sergey Prokopyev and NASA’s Frank Rubio — back to Earth, likely in late September.
That’s the current plan, anyway. It’s unclear at the moment if Roscosmos and the other space station partners will adjust it, perhaps to allow more time to conduct a Progress leak investigation and consider the implications of its results.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab), Facebook (opens in new tab) and Instagram (opens in new tab).