For the second time in recent months, a Russian spacecraft has suffered a coolant leak while docked with the International Space Station (ISS). The spacecraft affected by the recent leak is a cargo vehicle, and space authorities confirm that the ISS crew is in no way endangered by the leak.
On Feb 11, a new unmanned Russian Progress 83 successfully docked with the ISS, carrying cargo for the station. But the other Progress spacecraft already docked there — dubbed Progress 82 — has caused a coolant leak. Russia’s Roscosmos space agency hasn’t released many details on the issue, but according to SpaceNews, the agency confirmed in a Telegram message that depressurization had taken place, adding that there was no threat to the ISS crew.
NASA provided more details in an update, saying the depressurization took place in the Progress 82’s coolant system. “The reason for the loss of coolant in the Progress 82 spacecraft is being investigated,” NASA wrote. “The hatches between Progress 82 and the station are open and temperatures and pressures on board the station are all normal. The crew, who have been notified of the leak in the cooling circuit, are not in danger and are continuing normal operations of the space station.”
Progress 82 arrived at the ISS on an unmanned mission with cargo in October last year. It should undock from the space station in the coming week, fill with garbage and then burn up in the atmosphere. NASA hasn’t announced any changes to this descent due to the leak issue, and since the mission is unmanned and will be deorbited anyway, the loss of coolant may not be an issue.
This is the second coolant leak from a Russian spacecraft docked with the ISS in the past few months. In December last year, a Russian Soyuz capsule suffered a dramatic coolant leak that was captured on video. Roscosmos said the leak was likely caused by a micrometeorite impact.
The Soyuz spacecraft leak was a major concern as this vehicle was supposed to carry three astronauts home to Earth from the ISS, but the temperatures inside the vehicle during the journey would have been dangerous for them. Instead, Roscosmos said it would send a backup Soyuz launching later this month to bring the crew home, with a SpaceX Crew Dragon available as an emergency backup option.