It happened again. A Russian Progress cargo spacecraft bound for the International Space Station suffered a coolant leak, NASA said in a statement on Saturday. This is the second incident of this type in recent months after the docking of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the ISSsince leaking in December.
NASA said that “engineers at Russia’s Mission Control Center outside Moscow registered a pressure drop in the coolant circuit of the unmanned Roscosmos Progress 82 cargo ship, which is docked to the station’s space-facing Poisk module.” The cause of the leak is under investigation.
The unmanned Progress 82 (also known as Progress MS-21) arrived in late October last year carrying several tons of food, fuel and supplies. It is currently filled with junk for disposal and is scheduled to detach on Friday, February 17 to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.
Most importantly, the crew, which consists of three NASA astronauts, one Japanese astronaut and three Russian cosmonauts, is safe. “The hatches between Progress 82 and the station are open and temperatures and pressures aboard the station are normal,” NASA said. “The crew, who were informed of the cooling loop leak, are out of danger and are continuing normal space station operations.”
At least the Progress spacecraft isn’t being used to transport people. NASA and Roscomos announcedback to Earth, prompting a new plan to return NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Prokopiev and Dmitry Petelin home. The agencies came up with a plan to send a new Soyuz in February and separate the MS-22 without a crew on board.
Roscosmos and NASA suspect that a micrometeorite (a small space rock) may have caused the Soyuz leak. It is not yet known if the progress issue can be traced to a similar source or if the leak is coming from a similar location. A cargo leak isn’t nearly as concerning as a Soyuz leak, but the combination of the two so close together is likely to prompt additional scrutiny of Russian spacecraft, especially as the launch of a “replacement” Soyuz approaches.