According to a Russian news report yesterday, air is still leaking from the Zvezda module of ISS, despite the permanent repair of the crack earlier this week.
Earlier, the crew locked the hatches into the intermediate chamber. The Mission Control asked whether the crew had measured the pressure before the hatch into that chamber was opened. The crew reported that the pressure went down considerably in the smaller part of the compartment while it remained isolated from the rest of the station by an airtight hatch. “The pressure in the intermediate chamber went down from 723 mm of the mercury column to 685 millimeters,” Ryzhikov said.
The report is poorly written, and is unclear on the exact date this air test was done. It is therefore possible the test was done prior to the permanent repair.
If however the air is still leaking, this suggests there might be more than one leak point in that part of Zvezda. According to this same story, the two Russian astronauts during their spacewalk on November 18th took pictures of the exterior area of Zvezda where the leak is located, and noted no exterior damage.
All these facts point to a very serious problem. If there was no exterior damage, it means the leak was probably not caused by a micrometeorite hit (though closer more extensive observations as well as a review of the photos might still conclude otherwise). The fact that the leak is continuing after the permanent repair suggests there is another leak, in the same part of Zvezda. That section is also a docking port, and would have experienced the most stress during the several dozen dockings that have occurred since Zvezda was launched in 2000.
These facts therefore suggest stress damage and aging as the cause, which means the problem will only get worse no matter what method is used to seal any future leaks.
One quick solution that would work, at least for awhile, would be to close the hatch on this intermediate chamber, and do no more dockings to it. This at least would seal the station from atmosphere loss, and reduce the stress on this section of Zvezda. Whether Progress freighters, which use this port, can use another port, or will have a more limited ability to dock, is not clear, however.
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